Study: Ransomware attacks on healthcare can lead to higher mortality rate

About a quarter of healthcare providers report increased mortality rates due to ransomware.

Healthcare providers at the receiving end of a ransomware attack may have more lose more than access to their data.

According to a news release, a new analysis found that ransomware attacks could lead to increased mortality rates. About one-in-four, or 22 percent of healthcare providers reported an increase in mortality rate tied to these attacks.

The report was prepared by the privacy, data protection, and information security research center Ponemon Institute and was commissioned by healthcare IT risk solution provider Censinet. The full report is entitled The Impact of Ransomware on Healthcare During COVID-19 and Beyond and is based on a survey of 597 IT and IT security professionals, the release says.

The analysis also warns that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only introduced new risk factors to these providers including remote work and the new systems to support it, staffing challenges, and increased care requirements.

“Our findings correlated increasing cyberattacks, especially ransomware, with negative effects on patient care, exacerbated by the impact of COVID on healthcare providers,” Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, says in the release. “We also analyzed steps that (healthcare delivery organizations) are taking to protect patient safety, data, and care operations to determine what is working since so many respondents have been victims of more than one ransomware attack.”

The analysis also found that of the providers who had fallen victim to ransomware attacks 71 percent observed their patient had longer lengths of stay, 70 percent reported that delays in procedures and tests resulted in poor outcomes, and 65 percent reported increases in patients transferred or diverted to other facilities. A further 36 percent say they’ve seen an increase in medical procedure complications.

“The combination of data breaches, ransomware attacks, and COVID-19 has created the perfect cybersecurity storm and worst two years on record for IT and security leaders in healthcare,” Ed Gaudet, CEO and founder of Censinet, says in the release. “The Ponemon Research results are an urgent wake-up call for the healthcare industry to transform its cybersecurity and third-party risk programs or jeopardize patient lives.”