System Glitch When Patients Get Charged Millions

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

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System Glitch: When Patients Get Charged Millions

The Problem:
Just before the July 4 holiday, some patients of the Northern Cochise Community Hospital received rather explosive bills. One patient owed $49 million, while others, like Peta-Anne Tenney, got billed for upward of $100,000. "I said to Todd [her husband], 'Look at this—this is a doozy,'" she told the Range News of Willcox, Ariz., where the hospital is located. An unexplained glitch in the hospital's billing software was the problem: Patients with last names beginning with L through Z received their bill plus the added cost of the person before them, according to the paper. (The vendor, Healthcare Management Systems of Nashville, Tenn., did not respond to requests for comment.)

Key Lesson:
The hospital said the problem was corrected and that new bills would be sent out within 10 business days. And that's fine. But billing accuracy is crucial—not only for a company's bottom line, but for its customer relations. No consumer likes being told they owe more than they do—especially not millions more. What's more, as any smart I.T. manager knows, efficient safeguards need to be in place for any piece of software being used in a production environment.

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This article was originally published on 2007-08-24
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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