Tuesday, Feb. 07, 2023 |
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Hawaii Radiologic Associates is working to get its computer systems back online following a cyber attack last month.
HPA confirmed last week that the company was hacked on Oct. 20, causing it to shutdown its computer and phone systems.
“We regret that this has resulted in closure of our outpatient imaging centers until this problem is resolved,” the company said Thursday in a statement. “For our patients and referring health care providers who have been affected, please accept our sincere apologies. Our company has had the privilege of caring for our local community for almost 50 years, and we deeply regret the impact of this event on our patients.”
HRA didn’t say in the statement whether patients’ personal information or records were compromised.
“HRA has obtained assistance from excellent local and national experts to help with our recovery effort and to augment our security with state-of-the-art systems,” the statement said. “Our dedicated staff are working around the clock to restore services.”
While the shutdown has caused the cancellation of hundreds of appointments, employees have continued to work, using their time to paint walls and help improve HRA’s facilities while they await the return of regularly scheduled appointments. HRA has three locations on the island.
“We value our employees, and none have been furloughed or laid off,” said Executive Director Ryan Parnell. “We’re anxious to put our patients and the community at ease by resuming operations as soon as possible.”
The rescheduling of appointments will take place once the computer systems are back online and contact information becomes available. Appointments will be prioritized based on when the original appointments were scheduled.
“HRA is working on a plan of action for when we come back up to work in all the patients who had appointments canceled without disrupting those still scheduled,” said Parnell. “We will start contacting them chronologically — patients from October 21, then 22, etc.”
Those in East Hawaii with appointments for breast cancer localization procedures have been directed to Hilo Medical Center so key imaging procedures can still take place.
“We have started some limited services,” said Scott Grosskreutz, diagnostic radiologist at HRA. “Our staff has been kind enough to go in even though our clinics are closed to help with those procedures so that those important surgeries are not delayed. We hope in particular to try and expedite patients that are waiting for biopsies and things like that to get those done as soon as possible.”
The incident has highlighted the shortage of radiology resources in Hawaii County. A 2021 study from the University of Hawaii confirmed the county is short roughly 50% of the needed radiologists, and outside HMC, HRA is one of the only facilities on the island to offer radiology imaging.
“They have been the sole source of outpatient radiology services in our community all the time I’ve been practicing here,” said Big Island Docs President and local health care provider Lynda Dolan. “They have continued to stay on the cutting edge of getting new imaging equipment, i.e. MRIs, CTs, mammogram machines, as new things have developed over the years. They have remained top notch in terms of their equipment and their service.”
Dolan added that HRA has been in communication with her office about the issue, calling on Oct. 20 to notify and recommend referring patients to HMC in the meantime.
“Overall, I’ve been very happy with their services in an area that is very difficult to recruit physicians and recruit specialized staff, and they have remained here,” she said. “If they weren’t here, I really don’t know what we would do.”
Matthew Dykema, a Hilo-based primary care provider, said he refers patients to HRA every day for imaging.
“Without them here or unable to operate, it creates more of a burden on our hospital, which is already overloaded,” he said. “If something were to happen where they weren’t here long term, I don’t know how things would be sustained, quite honestly.”
Cyberattacks have become more frequent throughout the state, and as a result, the Hawaii Office of Homeland Security launched a Cyber Disruption Response Plan in March 2022, which establishes a framework to organize and coordinate response activities to cybercrimes.
In October, 15 airports throughout the state experienced a denial-of-service cyberattack, which essentially overloads airport websites by filling reservations with artificial users and jamming the systems.
The attacks resulted in the collaboration between the airports and the Hawaii Office of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“In 2019, Hawaii state victims of internet crimes lost over $9 million, mostly through fraud schemes,” the Cyber Distruption Response Plan states. “Based on analysis of FBI cyberattack data, states’ who report to the National Governors Association for spending on cybersecurity and how safe each state’s election systems are, Hawaii ranks at the top of those states at most risk of cyberattacks.”
HRA anticipates its computer systems and phone services being down for another week.
“It’s a cautionary tale for, I think, all providers and other businesses across the state, that you just have to really make sure you’re less of a target,” said Grosskreutz. “It’s noteworthy these days just how much of our world is on computers.”
Email Grant Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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