About Face due to data errors
Via our eagle eyed correspondent Tash Whitaker comes this story from the UK health service:
Last month, the National Health Service took the unusual step of closing down a children’s heart surgery unit at a UK hospital, after data they had submitted showed that twice as many children and babies died in the unit than anywhere else in the UK. The UK media went went into a frenzy; people came out of the woodwork with stories about their treatment at the hospital, neglect and near death experiences in abundance.
Eleven days later and the unit is set to reopen. Turns out that there were not twice as many people dying after all, just a terminal case of data malaise. The data that the hospital submitted to the NHS was late and incomplete; in fact, 35% of the expected data was missing completely, with catastrophic results.
This particular hospital had obviously not stopped to think about the impact that bad quality data has on their business and on their customers. How many children and babies had heart surgery postponed as a result of the closure? How many may later die as a result of that postponement?
In a twist of fate, the unit was closed down only 24 hours after a High Court ruling that the hospital should keep its heart unit long term. I suspect that decision is now in jeopardy. How can the hospital’s reputation recover from something like this? Would you want your child to be operated on somewhere with a reputation for high death rates? A reputation that we know to be wrong but will no doubt stay with this hospital unit for many years to come.
The importance of data as a business asset is proclaimed regularly but we forget to mention that it can also be a liability. Most people don’t remember when good quality data helped them make decisions, helped them grow their business, or enabled them to beat the competition; but they sure as hell remember when it causes their business operations to cease, their reputation to be torn to ribbons and their status as a trusted entity to be shattered before their eyes.
(Thanks to Tash for the alert and the excellent write up)