CDC on Wednesday estimated that more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
- District of Columbia: The State Department announced a $10 million reward for any information that helps identify or locate individuals in a leadership position in the Conti ransomware group. Federal agencies have warned hospitals and health care organizations about the increased use of the ransomware, which steals files, encrypts servers, and demands a ransom payment. In 2021, the CyberPeace Institute conducted an analysis that found that the group had attacked more than 15 targets in the health care industry. As of January, they have targeted around 1,000 victims, with payouts exceeding $150 million—making it the costliest documented ransomware strain. (Diaz, Becker's Hospital Review, 5/9)
- Georgia: CDC on Wednesday published preliminary data that more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021. "That's about a 15% increase from the number of deaths in 2020," said Farida Ahmad, a research scientist for CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. In 2020, CDC reported nearly 94,000 U.S. overdose deaths—a historic 30% year-to-year increase. While the year-to-year increase slowed in 2021, the total estimated deaths mark the highest annual overdose deaths ever recorded in the United States. "Over 80,000 of those deaths involved opioids, which was about a 15% increase from last year," Ahmad said. "These past three years we have seen an increase of contamination of other illicit drugs with fentanyl, be it cocaine, be methamphetamine, and more recently, illicit prescription drugs," said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. According to Volkow, this has increased the risk of overdoses for a larger population of drug users. "In many instances, these may be people that take just one pill and they get that contaminated pill and they can die," she added. (Stobbe, AP/STAT News, 5/11; Kornfield, Washington Post, 5/11; Weiland/Sanger-Katz, New York Times, 5/11; AP/Modern Healthcare, 5/11; Chatterjee, "Shots," NPR, 5/11; Mahr, Politico, 5/11; Bettelheim, Axios, 5/12; Knutson, Axios, 5/11)
- North Carolina/Wisconsin: Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health on Wednesday announced a merger to form a $27 billion health system across seven states, making it the sixth largest health system in the country. Once combined, the organization will have 67 hospitals—40 from Atrium and 27 from Advocate Aurora—with almost 150,000 employees across Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The health system will operate under both brands but plans to transition to Advocate Health for the parent company. "The world of healthcare as we know it is changing at warp speed—and it is rapidly becoming more digital, personalized, scientific and complex," said Eugene Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health. "This strategic combination will enable us to deepen our commitments to health equity, create more jobs and opportunities for our teammates and communities, launch new game-changing innovations, and so much more. Together, we will manifest a new future that significantly elevates the care we provide to every hand we hold and every life we touch." (Blackman, Health Leaders Media, 5/11; Kacik, Modern Healthcare, 5/11)