Cyberattack shuts down access to off-site radiology services for some Allina sites, other health care groups

A major provider of off-site radiology services — including professional interpretations of X-rays for more than 100 health care facilities in and around Minnesota — has been offline this week, victim to an apparent cyberattack.

Sunday evening was a difficult one for doctors at several hospitals and clinics, who lost contact with Consulting Radiologists Ltd. of Eden Prairie. During the past work week, affected Allina facilities have had to rely on in-house radiology services, which in some cases are more limited.

“They provide diagnostic reads of imaging for us, but it’s not at all sites,” said Conny Bergerson, a spokesperson for Allina. “It’s at several sites. It’s not all of our clinics, but it’s a big portion of our clinics that we partner with CRL.”

Small health care facilities without an in-house radiologist appear to be most affected. Physicians associated with Glencoe Regional Health, which is not an Allina hospital, have had to divert stroke and trauma patients to other facilities.

Allina maintains a heart institute at Glencoe but uses its own cardiologists there to review medical images, Bergerson said. At some Allina clinics and hospitals, “people have had to put in extra times for diagnostics, but none of our sites have had to divert patients,” she said.

The problem appears to have begun Sunday when hackers reportedly targeted Consulting Radiologists, which employs 175 board-certified radiologists to provide medical interpretations to hospitals and health systems across the state. The company’s phone lines were still offline on Thursday morning, and a notice on its website indicated, “We are currently experiencing issues with our phone systems.”

Officials with HealthPartners health system said they were not affected. Officials with Glencoe Health and Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia did not immediately indicate on Thursday the extent to which their operations were affected.

Radiologists are medical doctors who diagnose injuries and diseases using the results of medical imaging such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds. Rather than maintain a large roster of in-house radiologists, health systems have increasingly taken to outsourcing the service to private off-site providers.

That’s exposed a vulnerability. Cyberattacks on imaging clinics and other radiology providers have become increasingly common, affecting some 54 public hospitals in Ireland associated with the country’s health system in 2021. The Florida-based Akumin radiology network — a national provider to 1,000 U.S. hospitals and health systems — fell victim in October.

The American Hospital Association reported that cyberattacks aimed at health care organizations, while not increasing in volume, have become more damaging, with data breaches affecting a record 106 million people last year — or 1 in 3 Americans — up from 44 million the year before.

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