Healthcare News of Note: More ransomware attacks mean hospitals and health systems will likely have to increase investment in IT security
- Ransomware attacks will continue among large providers for the foreseeable future, and health systems will need additional resources to thwart future cybersecurity breaches.
- Some unvaccinated Americans are opting out of COVID-19 shots because they’re worried about receiving a surprise bill.
- Lawmakers reintroduced a plan to allow more international physician candidates to attend residency in the U.S. and stay in the country after their training if they agree to work in underserved areas.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.
1. Moody’s Investors Service: Healthcare providers need to deploy more resources to thwart cybersecurity breaches
An article published May 27 in Healthcare Dive reported, “Ransomware attacks will continue among large providers for the foreseeable future, and ‘healthcare systems will need to deploy additional resources to thwart future cybersecurity breaches even as the pandemic continues to use up significant clinical, financial and strategic resources,’ according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service. The organization noted that nonprofit hospitals tend to spend less on IT security than the banking and utility sectors.
“Moreover, healthcare systems have been rendered more vulnerable due to COVID-19 as non-clinical employees working from home has led to expanded use of ‘less secure networks, increasing the number of access points vulnerable to a breach and driving up the frequency of “phishing” attempts, due to the higher frequency of communication via email.’
“The report also suggested that future attacks could lead to serious hits to the bottom lines of some providers, and could even lead to patient deaths — as was the case with a recent cyberattack of a hospital in Europe.”
The article by Ron Shinkman continued, “The Moody’s report could not specifically delineate how much ransomware attacks have ramped up in recent years, noting that many are not publicly disclosed. However, it cited research from IT security firm VMware Carbon Black, which reported 239.4 million attempted attacks on its healthcare customers last year — a nearly 10,000% increase compared to 2019.”
Shinkman also wrote, “hospitals and healthcare systems will likely have to invest more in IT security.” According to Moody’s, the percentage of budget spent on cybersecurity in different sectors is:
- Electric utilities: 11%
- Banks: 8%
- Not-for-profit providers: about 5% (up from 3% in 2018)
2. Surprise-bill concerns deter one third of Americans from getting a COVID-19 vaccine
A Becker’s Hospital CFO Report article published June 1 reported, “Some unvaccinated Americans are opting out of COVID-19 shots because they’re worried about receiving a surprise bill, even though Congress has banned all pharmacies and healthcare providers from charging for COVID-19 vaccines, The New York Times reported June 1.
“About a third of unvaccinated adults did not know whether insurance covered COVID-19 vaccines and were concerned that they may receive a bill for the shot, according to survey results released May 6 by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This concern was especially prevalent among Black and Latinx respondents, many of whom have become acclimated to a healthcare system in which large, unexpected medical bills are not uncommon.
“‘For someone who has incurred medical debt, they may be told by the media and everyone else that the vaccine is cost-free, but they’ve also had this very negative, prior encounter with the medical system that has created feelings of mistrust,’ Lucie Kalousova, PhD, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, told the Times.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor reported the following in April: “… We continue to find that lack of information and access are barriers for some individuals, particularly people of color. For example, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than White adults to be concerned about having to miss work due to side effects, having to pay out-of-pocket for the COVID-19 vaccine (even though it is free), or not being able to get the vaccine from a place they trust.
“In addition, 45% of Hispanic adults say they don’t have enough information about when they can get vaccinated and a similar share are not sure whether they are currently eligible to receive the vaccine in their state (even though eligibility is now open to all U.S. residents).”
3. Shortage of physicians in rural and other underserved areas in the U.S. spurs reintroduction of a plan to increase the number of international physician candidates
A May 28 article in Modern Healthcare (log-in required) reported, “Lawmakers reintroduced a plan to allow more international physician candidates [to] attend residency in the U.S. and stay in the country after their training if they agree to work in underserved areas.
“The legislation was reintroduced [May 27] and would increase the number of slots in the Conrad 30 program. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) first introduced the bill in 2019 with bipartisan support, but it failed to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Minor changes were made to the bill to drum up a broader coalition of supporters,” the article states, including by reauthorizing the Conrad 30 program for three years following the bill’s enactment. Other changes address hospital malpractice concerns and direct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to track how the J-1 visa program is being used by states.
“The American Hospital Association and American Medical Association both support the bill, but it is unclear whether the legislation’s effort to raise the number of slots for residency graduates to work in the country will effectively address workforce shortages in rural communities,” the article states.
HFMA bonus content
- Meet HFMA’s new National Chair in the article, “Ready for the moment: After her historic appointment as HFMA Chair, Tammie Jackson is eager to get to work on key healthcare issues,” by Nick Hut, senior editor.
- Learn how finance and clinical leaders can work together effectively in the Expert Reviewed article, “Physicians and finance: Managing the differences is critical to building clinical value,” by George Mayzell, MD, Steven Berger, FHFMA, and Doug McKinley, PsyD.
- Read this month’s From the President column, “Hypersensitivities only serve to suppress honest equity conversations,” by Joseph J. Fifer, HFMA president and CEO.
- Learn more about a collaboration between HFMA and Boise State University to launch the Master’s in Population and Health Systems Management degree in an article by Todd Nelson, HFMA’s director of partner relationships, content and professional practice guidance.