Investigation launched into HSE’s X-ray IT error

An investigation into the IT error that has cast doubt over at least 25,000 medical scans has been launched by the health tech company that supplies software to the HSE, writes Joyce Fegan.

Last week, it emerged that at least 25,000 X-rays, MRIs, CTs, and ultrasounds taken since 2011 are affected by a computer programming error.

The consequence of the IT flaw means patients could have been undertreated, overtreated, or not treated at all.

In a memo to his leadership team, HSE director general Tony O’Brien alleged that the software provider, Change Healthcare, knew of this flaw as early as January 2016.

Responding to Mr O’Brien’s allegation, a Change Healthcare spokeswoman told the Irish Examiner that an internal investigation into the matter is under way.

“Patient safety drives all of our work at Change Healthcare and we are working hard to understand exactly what happened in this case,” the spokeswoman said.

“We are working with the HSE to address the issue.

“An internal investigation is currently under way in Change Healthcare to establish exactly what happened. When our internal investigation is complete we will provide further information as soon as possible thereafter.”

Meanwhile, the Private Hospitals Association (PHA) responded to Mr O’Brien’s assertion about the length of time rescanning would take and how it could increase waiting list times.

“There is no reason why the rechecking of affected patients should increase delays in Ireland’s long public waiting lists as the HSE is suggesting,” said PHA chief executive Simon Nugent.

“We would be happy to work with the HSE to schedule the necessary imaging procedures — X-rays, MRIs and CT Scans — in fully equipped private hospitals across Ireland.”

He said the scans could be done in a “matter of weeks” without placing any additional burden on the public system.

Mr Nugent, in relation to the cost of resolving the matter through additional scans, said the “vendor at fault or their insurers” should cover it.

“There should be no difficulty finding the resources to undertake the rechecks promptly,” he said.

In Ireland, approximately 23,302,968 records have been created in the last six years on the National Integrated Medical Imaging System for some 6,109,043 people. Of these, a total of 21,131 records were impacted by the IT error.

The exact issue relates to the use of the “less than” (<) symbol and it being omitted or not visible when being read in a report by a medical professional.

Professor of computer science at University College Cork, Barry O’Sullivan, said: “It’s like if I have a piece of software and I ask how many people in my area are less than 50 years of age, that number is not going to include the people that are 50 years of age. The answers are totally disjointed.”

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner

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