Hospital technology is not having a good week. First an EMR flaw was identified in the handling of an Ebola patient, and now this.
Hospital says spreadsheet flaw led to overspending
Administrators did not see the analyst’s note in the spreadsheet, officials say
10:00AM – October 5, 2014
Officials at UASP Hospital (Unique and Sick Patients Hospital) allege that a flaw in the hospital’s spreadsheet application prevented administrators from seeing negative budget variances, leading the hospital to spend too much money.
Background on the case
On Sunday evening, officials confirmed the case of overspending after an analyst submitted an invoice for payment in a cost center already over budget, setting in motion actions that would have UASP hospital over spend.
The trouble with spreadsheets
According to the hospital, the administrator who approved spending the money followed hospital protocol. Although the analyst had included the information about the negative budget variance in the correct cost spreadsheet tab, the administrator never saw the notation.
"Protocols were followed by both the analyst and administrator. However, we have identified a flaw in the way the administrator and analyst portions of our spreadsheet software interact in this specific case. In our spreadsheets, there are separate administrator and analyst workbook tabs," according to a hospital statement.
"The documentation of spending variances was located in the analyst workflow portion of the spreadsheet, and was designed to provide high reliability analyst process to allow for the spending and approval under administrative pre-approval limits," the statement explains. As a result, "the documentation of spending variances would not automatically appear in the administrator’s standard workflow."
Could your hospital handle financial variances?
The hospital says it has since moved the budget variance into the workflow for both administrators and analysts. It has also modified the spreadsheet to highlight any large expenses when a cost center is close to its budget.
According to the hospital, "We have made this change to increase the visibility and documentation of budget variances in order to alert everyone… We feel this change will improve the early identification of variances in the budget, and bring to our attention any over spending"
While not named, it is well known that Microsoft is a leading vendor in the spreadsheet space and the current vendor of UASP Hospital. Reached for comment, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. added, "Even more important, we must have courage in the face of opportunity."
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com noted on CNBC, "The era of the traditional software ‘load, update and upgrade’ business and technology model is over … It is time for The Business Web"
Note: while I am poking fun at how we can blame technology, the severity of the Ebola disease is no laughing matter. My thought and prayers are with all Ebola patients around the world as well as the courageous caregivers putting their lives at risk every day. There are many ways to help. I have chosen to donate to the Red Cross.