New malware that has swept through computers in more than 60 countries has disrupted medical transcription services at some Wisconsin hospitals.
The malware called NotPetya recently hit Nuance Communications, a voice transcription service for health care providers, including Wisconsin-based Aurora Health Care, ThedaCare and Bellin Health.
Nuance, based in Burlington, Mass., said it was hit by the malware on Tuesday. Some of the first signs came when customers went on Twitter to complain about trouble with its transcription services and the Dragon Medical 360 tool that places medical dictation into electronic health records.
“As soon as the company became aware of the situation, it took measures to contain the incident and assess the extent of the impact on its network,” Nuance said in a statement.
Saturday, the company was still trying to repair the damage, according to local hospitals.
“But there is absolutely no indication that patient information from our health system or any other health system was compromised, that I know of,” said Dana Bzdawka, spokesman for Bellin Health in Green Bay.
“Our issue was more of an operational one,” Bzdawka said, in that about 75 Bellin doctors couldn’t access the voice transcription service.
“Nuance was essentially shut down. It didn’t appear to be a privacy, confidentiality or identity theft attack,” Bzdawka said.
Nuance has offered other software options for its customers affected by the damaged network.
“Our technical teams are continuing to work on network server recovery, determining the recovery process and timing and other client options,” the company said on its Twitter account.
The malware has struck computers in at least 64 countries. Experts said it was designed to do permanent damage to a computer’s hard drive.
About 60% of the infected machines are located in Ukraine, according to a Forbes magazine article. Some security experts believe an investigation will reveal Russian hackers are behind the attack. Computers in Brazil and Denmark also were targeted.
So far, there have been more than 2,000 attacks worldwide, according to Healthcare IT News.
The attack against Nuance has forced health care providers to scramble for other transcription services and has resulted in a backlog of work.
“This is impacting our transcription processes. To ensure patient safety and communication of care, we (are) working with our providers to use alternatives to dictation and transcription,” ThedaCare said in a statement.
Aurora Health Care said it deployed backup systems to ensure that patient care was not affected.
Bellin Health said it stepped up its cyber security.
“We have a good amount of safeguards to protect our patient information, but we are even taking that a step further,” Bzdawka said.
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