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Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems Back Online After Cyber Attack Three Weeks Ago

September 16, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Three weeks ago, on Aug. 27th, Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) announced its network had been hit with a computer virus. This week, ARH officials announced that operations are returning to normal as computerized clinical and electronic communication systems are being brought back online.

ARH operates 11 hospitals, two in West Virginia and nine in Kentucky. There has been no comment from the health system as to whether the cyber attack was ransomware.

"Our ARH information technology team has spent the past few weeks strategically working through these issues to restore our computer network. We owe it to those we serve to be very thorough in this process, and are taking the time needed to check all computers and be sure all of our systems are safe and functioning properly prior to bringing them back online,” Maria Braman, M.D. ARH vice president for medical affairs, said in a prepared statement posted to the health system's website. "We appreciate the patience that has been shown by our patients and our staff as our IT team is safely bringing our system back online with tighter security measures in place.”

At this time, all ARH hospitals, home health, retail pharmacies and various clinics are back online, according to the health system's statement.

As previously reported by Healthcare Informatics, on Aug. 27th, ARH spokesperson Melissa Cornett released a statement saying the health system was dealing with technical complications.

The ARH system of hospitals in Kentucky and West Virginia are operating under their Emergency Operations Plan due to a computer virus "that has limited our use of electronic web-based services and electronic communications," Cornett said in her statement on Aug. 27.

In the statement posted Sept. 15th, Braman said quick response from the ARH IT team resulted in computers being locked down to minimize the spread of the virus throughout ARH’s multi-hospital system.

"At this time, ARH presently has no reason to believe that the protected health information or any financial information of its patients or employees has been accessed. The cyberattack on the ARH system remains under investigation by federal authorities. ARH is working closely with authorities in that process and has been asked not to discuss specifics surrounding the cyberattack," Braman said.

"This downtime might have caused us some inconvenience for a few weeks, but it has also further proven the level of care all the hospitals in the ARH system can truly provide,” Braman said. “The team at ARH is firmly committed to our communities and can rise above any circumstance to put the care of our patients first.”

The computer systems have been restored at Beckley ARH Hospital since early this week. In a prepared statement, Beckley ARH Hospital psychiatrist Ahmed D. Faheem, M.D. said despite the challenges the Beckley ARH faced during the downtime, its patients and community continued to show the hospital support.

“BARH is a survivor and has existed here for 60 years through thick and thin. It is a community hospital that has always had great support from the people we serve, and we are confident the community will continue to rally around us and we will move forward together," Faheem said.

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