News roundup: Change responsible for data breach notices; 37% of healthcare orgs have no cybersec contingency plan; health execs scared by Ascension breach; CVS continues betting on health services; Plenful’s $17M Series A

HHS agrees with providers that the data breach notification is on Change Healthcare, not them. Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) moved quickly to formally change the FAQs that kicked off the 100+ provider letter [TTA 23 May]. Now “Covered entities affected by the Change Healthcare breach may delegate to Change Healthcare the tasks of providing the required HIPAA breach notifications on their behalf.” “Covered entities” in this case refers to the providers. Only one entity–Change or the provider–“needs to complete breach notifications to affected individuals, HHS, and where applicable the media.” Providers must contact Change Healthcare for the delegation. 

Chad Golder, general counsel and secretary at the American Hospital Association (AHA) said in their statement, “As we explained then, not only is there legal authority for UnitedHealth Group to make these notifications, but requiring hospitals to make their own notifications would confuse patients and impose unnecessary costs on providers, particularly when they have already suffered so greatly from this attack.” HHS notice, Healthcare Dive

Meanwhile, UHG still does not know the extent of the breach which started in late February. Knowing the extent of the breach is needed to start notifications. It has not formally notified HHS of the breach long past the 60-day mandated window (see #3 in the HHS FAQs). This may create an ‘unreasonable delay’ (see #6). Not all Change systems are back up either–see the Optum Solutions page that has plenty of red Xs.

Only 63% of healthcare organizations have a cybersecurity response plan in place, leaving 37% without a plan. This is based on a survey of 296 IT/data security/management executive respondents working at healthcare organizations in the US performed by Software Advice, an advisory and consulting firm. Other findings:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 have had a data breach in the last three years
  • 42% of practices have experienced a ransomware attack, and of those, 48% say the attack impacted customer data
  • 34% failed to recover data after the ransomware attack
  • 55% of medical practices allow access to more data than employees need to do their job which makes them more vulnerable to attacks
  • While 41% of data breaches are attributable to malicious hacking, another 39% are due to malware, 37% are due to social engineering and phishing scams, 36% are due to software vulnerabilities, and 30% are due to employee error.

It would have been helpful if Software Advice in its report had broken down the type of practices surveyed. Healthcare Dive

Meanwhile, healthcare executives were ‘scared’ by the Ascension Health breach, as they should have been. Katie Adams’ piece in MedCityNews explores reactions from five different C-suite hospital executives about the recent attack on Ascension. The IT and data officers are from MD Anderson, Yale New Haven Health, CommonSpirit Health, Allegheny Health Network, and UPMC. The overall take was that threats are more common than ever, bad actors are abundant and getting better (using tools that can make amateurs into pretty good “bad actors” via “LLM products and have them help you build ransomware code.”), managing weaknesses in third-party vendors that live in the cloud is a Herculean task, phishing, and the need for ‘government’ to be involved. 

This Editor notes that the rush for providers into generative AI, given this environment, is perhaps premature. Yet here they go; researchers from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine used structured data, such as vital signs, and unstructured data, such as nurse triage notes, to develop models predicting hospital admissions using ChatGPT-4. It supposedly can learn from fewer examples than other machine-learning models currently used and use data from traditional models. Becker’s

Ascension is slowly coming back, now projecting that all their locations will have their EHRs restored by the week of 14 June. Currently, only Florida, Alabama and Austin are up and running. Ascension Rx retail, home delivery and specialty pharmacy sites are now open as well. They will have some ‘splainin’ to do to HHS OCR. Ascension update site

CVS is confident in the future of its retail health despite their struggles with Minute Clinics and Oak Street.  Despite the struggle of retail health clinics at other providers such as Walgreens/VillageMD and the shutdown of Walmart Health, Sree Chaguturu, MD, CVS Health’s executive vice president and chief medical officer, expressed complete confidence at a recent industry conclave, thINc360 – The Healthcare Innovation Congress. This is despite the closures of dozens of Minute Clinics in Southern California and New England [TTA 31 May] out of their 1,100 total plus that CVS seeking an investment partner for Oak Street [TTA 29 May]. Dr. Chaguturu returned time and again to the 10,000-odd CVS Pharmacy locations and their leverage within communities, leaning very hard on the 5 million people coming in daily and the ‘opportunity for their pharmacists to engage’. As a CVS customer at a small location, those busy pharmacists aren’t engaging with me unless I have a script to fill or need an OTC decongestant that’s on the state signoff list due to an ingredient. In fact, CVS locations have rather few people nowadays, including behind checkout counters. Then again, it was a meeting speech. FierceHealthcare

Concluding on a brighter note, Plenful’s Series A came in at a tidy $17 million. Plenful developed and markets an AI-assisted workflow-automation platform for pharmacy and healthcare operations, claiming that it automates over 95% of the work for disparate administrative workflows. Features include 340B audit, document processing, contracted rates optimization and inventory planning, and pharmacy cycle revenue and reporting. Founded in 2021, the company has already lined up some impressive clients. Lead investor TQ Ventures was joined by Mitchell Rales (cofounder and chairman of Danaher), Susa Ventures, Waterline Ventures, and Bessemer Partners, the lead for last September’s $9 million seed funding for a total of $26 million. Crunchbase, Mobihealthnews

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