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Microservices Expo: Article

Twenty-Thousand Men Pregnant Because of Bad Data

Tens of Thousands of UK Men Can't Be Wrong

Nearly 20,000 British men were pregnant in 2009 and 2010 - according to the UK's National Health System. 8,000 of them had office appointments with their gynecologists, and a total of 17,000 of them were admitted to hospitals to undergo various obstetric services related to their pregnancies.

As a big believer in equality across all genders, faiths and genetic backgrounds - I was initially very enthusiastic about this medical breakthrough.

But my excitement was short-lived as I shortly found out that it was simply a matter of bad data introduced as data were manually re-entered from one system into another (because the systems were not integrated), or as data were transcribed from paper to machine, or simply mis-keyed into the original system.

I've written quite a bit on bad data, how pervasive the problem is, and how expensive it is - for example "$3 Trillion Problem"

In this case, the mistake perhaps cost $50 to $70 million for the hospital admissions and gynecologist visits. Perhaps lab tests were also ordered, but I haven't figured that into the cost. I feel very sorry for the guys that underwent such tests - how do you put a price tag on that?

Additionally, these admissions and visits for pregnancy-related issues were INSTEAD of admissions for real and needed medical conditions - which means you need to factor in the "value of time lost" for those patients. And any potential increases in costs associated with delaying treatment for their real medical conditions.

So ballpark - maybe we're talking about $100 million or so. But that's only for male pregnancy.  There's more - 3,000 kids under 20 who got sent to Geriatric Services. 1600 adults who got sent to adolescent psychiatry by mistake. Thousands of adults who got sent to pediatricians (colic?  teething pains?) and many more categories of screw-ups. What about situations where someone needed a scan to diagnose potential cancer and got sent to a dermatologist for treatment of stubborn acne pimples instead?

So what's the cost of this very preventable problem - a simple and very narrow issue dealing with something called an ICD code - International Classification of Diseases code? Hundreds of millions of dollars? A billion dollars?  A few billion?  It's certainly a very small part of $3 trillion.

But the UK's National Health System is chronically underfunded -  you need to wait for up to two months to begin treatment for suspected cancers, 3 months for a heart bypass operation (versus about 24 hours here in the U.S. with private insurance) - and for them, a few hundred million or a few billion is a very big deal.

Using manual data or application integration techniques; poorly designed codes that are easy to mis-enter; badly written applications that don't check for basic things like "If you're a guy, you're probably not pregnant" - all a recipe for expensive disaster.  And all common place.  Bad Data and Sick Applications.  And simply unacceptable.




Hollis Tibbetts is a Software Strategy Director for Dell Inc.'s Global Mergers and Acquisitions organization.  He writes on a number of software marketing and technology topics, including marketing "best practices", growth strategies, Data, Integration and Legacy Modernization.


More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.

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