The Real Cost of Bad Data in the Healthcare Industry

With announcements of planned spending cuts to the NHS budget over the last couple of years, where up to 50,000 frontline jobs could be axed, it is frustrating to hear that easily preventable wastage is occurring with something as simple as data maintenance.

Ghost Patients

A recent report conducted by the Audit Commission has revealed that doctors are receiving an estimated £162 million a year- for ‘ghost patients’, who due either to lack of basic data hygiene or potential fraud, were still registered on GP lists.

Although there are currently 55 million patients registered with GPs, there are in fact only 52.5 million living in England. As each practice receives an average of £65 per registered patient per annum whether they receive treatment or not, there would seem to be a potentially significant overpayment on the 2.5 million additional “patients.”

Indeed, as part of their report, The Audit Commission identified a significant number of patients who appeared on more than one GP practice register, others who had emigrated or worse still even some that had died over 30 years ago. And that was before accounting for the number of multiple registrations from a single dwelling and registrations from failed asylum seekers.

Unnecessary Wastage

As a taxpayer it makes my blood boil to think of the unnecessary wastage in the public sector caused by poor data policies and systems, particularly when I know that it’s a relatively simple problem to fix with some basic data hygiene rules and someone prepared to take ownership of the problem.