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Address management especially important with confidential health data

Rachel Wheeler Archive

For those who work in the health care industry, taking care of people's personal data is an everyday responsibility. Whether it's hospitals, insurance companies or public health offices, all of the above are in control of a great deal of information about people -  their contact information, medical histories, financial data and more. Taking care of this knowledge is vital. Mistakes can be costly.

It should follow, therefore, that address verification is a key value for any such organization. Maintaining accuracy with people's contact info should be the first order of business.

All too often, though, mistakes happen. One such instance came from the Northwest Territories of Canada, where the province's health department recently mailed 195 health care cards to the wrong addresses, according to CBC. The department office stated that the mishap occurred because of a "spreadsheet sorting error," which caused the wrong names to be paired with the wrong addresses.

The good news is that the officials in charge are optimistic that no one's personal information will be compromised. Debbie DeLancey, deputy minister of health, also noted that only a small fraction of the 40,000 people who have health coverage in the territory were affected.

"It might create confusion in terms of record, but unless they're not an N.W.T. resident, in which case we're paying for services we wouldn't normally pay for, there's not a huge financial risk to the government, and that person is not accessing that person's record," DeLancey told CBC.

Not every address management error causes massive financial losses or other catastrophic side effects, but that doesn't mean they don't still need to be stopped. Errors such as these cause interruptions in vital affairs such as administering health care - and moreover, they often lead to embarrassing headlines. All the more reason for companies and nonprofit organizations alike to take better care of their data.