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Chattanooga Heart Institute investigating cybersecurity incident | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

The Chattanooga Heart Institute, the cardiac care service provider for CHI Memorial, is the latest known local health care provider to fall victim to cyber intruders who may have stolen private patient information, according to an online notice.

The notice on The Chattanooga Heart Institute website states that in April the provider identified signs its information technology network was breached and launched an investigation with the help of an outside forensics vendor.

“On May 31, 2023, The Chattanooga Heart Institute learned that the unauthorized third party obtained copies of some of the data from its systems containing confidential patient information,” the website states, noting the hackers did not retrieve data directly from the provider’s electronic medical records.

The breach occurred between March 8 and March 16, according to the website. The Chattanooga Heart Institute was the only entity within the health system affected by the attack, a CHI Memorial spokesperson said.

“While the Chattanooga Heart Institute continues to complete an extensive review of the files involved, the investigation found that the unauthorized third party may have accessed or acquired some information related to the Chattanooga Heart Institute patients or their guarantors,” the website states.

Some of the information that was compromised may have included name, mailing address, email address, phone number, date of birth, driver’s license number, Social Security number, account information, health insurance information, diagnosis/condition information, lab results, medications and other clinical, demographic or financial information, according to the website.

In an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Monday, Chattanooga Heart Institute President Paul Farmer said IT workers are still examining the cause and effect of the recent hack but declined to discuss details, deferring to what the heart institute posted on its website: chattanoogaheart.com.

In the coming weeks, patients who may have been affected by the attack should receive notification letters with more information from the Chattanooga Heart Institute.

“To help relieve concerns and restore confidence following this incident, the Chattanooga Heart Institute has secured the services of Equifax to provide identity monitoring at no cost to individuals whose data may be involved,” the website states. “These identity monitoring services, as described in more detail in the individual notification letters being provided to affected individuals, include credit monitoring, fraud consultation and identity theft restoration.”

In addition to the website, more information is available by calling 833-627-2719 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday to reach the third-party call center that’s handling inquiries.

Last fall, a ransomware attack at CHI Memorial’s parent company — CommonSpirit Health — forced hospital facilities in the Chattanooga region offline for nearly three weeks. It took several more weeks for computer systems, including electronic medical records, to be restored at CHI Memorial physician offices.

CommonSpirit officials estimate the company lost $160 million across the nationwide health system as a result of the attack.

In July, Parkridge facilities in Chattanooga were among those affected by a data breach at HCA Healthcare, a Nashville-based health system with 180 hospitals and roughly 2,300 other medical facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Chattanooga Heart Institute’s website advises all patients review health care statements and report inaccuracies to their provider or insurance company as well as monitor their credit reports.

“We apologize for any concern this may cause. Protecting information is important to us,” the website states. “We trust that this notification and additional resource information demonstrates our continued commitment to our patients and the community.”

The Chattanooga Heart Institute is a separate legal entity owned by Memorial Health Care System, Inc., according to a statement from institute officials.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

Staff writer Dave Flessner contributed to this report.


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