Canadians receive incorrect health care cards due to spreadsheet error

In Canada, health care is administered through the provinces under the nation’s publicly-funded system. This generally works quite well and is popular, but when a few administrators are put in charge of the health care of thousands, it is inevitable that certain mistakes will be made. Indeed, as a recent news story demonstrates, even a simple error can cause problems.

The CBC reports that the Northwest Territories Department of Health mailed 195 health care cards to the wrong addresses as a result of a spreadsheet error.

Debbie DeLancey, deputy minister of health in the province, said that in terms of impact on the system, this mistake was minor.

“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 said. “There’s actually not a lot of personal information on a health care card other than your name, your address and obviously your health card number. If I received your card, I really wouldn’t be able to use it to create an identity or steal an identity.”

Still, the fact that this mistake could happen suggests that larger, more pressing errors are still possible. To avoid this, the Department of Health announced a reduction in the number of people who will work on health files that contain sensitive personal data.

The department should also consider investing in better Excel training so that it can reduce the chance of future mistakes with spreadsheet programs.