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Data mishap leads to mistaken health care mailing in California

Rachel Wheeler Archive

It's important that health care services pay close attention to matters of data quality. If they don't, they risk putting information into the wrong hands, which could endanger patients and harm their business.

One cautionary tale recently arose in California, where a health firm accidentally mailed thousands of ID cards to the wrong addresses. According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Health Net had a database of patients' contact information that they used to disseminate medical materials, but the database wasn't well maintained, and the people's addresses had become outdated.

As a result, the health organization botched a large transition of its members into the new Health Net Medi-Cal program. ID cards meant for about 6,700 consumers were sent to the wrong locations. These cards did not include financial or medical information, but they did display members' names, ID numbers and primary care physicians.

Health Net said in a statement that it was "diligently investigating the issue," working closely with the state's department of health care services to get to the bottom of what happened. A technical malfunction is suspected.

"Health Net believes that the programming issue that resulted in the identification cards being mailed to a member's former address has been addressed," the company stated.

Pat Clarey, chief regulatory and external relations officer at Health Net, is adamant that the company can't let such a mistake happen again.

"We take our members' privacy seriously … and we have taken steps to help prevent a recurrence of this situation," Clarey said in a statement.

This story and others like it demonstrate the importance of taking care of consumers' contact information. The tech mishap may only have affected one small fraction of Health Net's 5.4 million customers, but it was nonetheless damaging to the organization's reputation. All businesses can take steps to keep such catastrophes from happening.