Carrying old data forward by default is a time saving measure used for speed and efficiency. For example, when metadata for drawings and documents are automatically carried over to the next iteration or revision, data managers do not have to input the data manually. However, the practice of keeping existing data in place by default and assuming it is correct until changed creates the possibility of disasters.
- In engineering: Problems can arise when old attachments carry over by default. Instead of prompting for a new attachment, carelessness or ignorance can result in the new drawing being released with the old drawing attachment. Adding the new drawing may occur while the old drawing remains on the document record, adding to potential confusion for users.
- In Human Resources: An employee changes states from contractor to employee or employee to contractor. An employee changes roles within an organization, moving from assembly to test or quality control. Leaving their profile unchanged by default except the one or two fields changed creates an IT security risk. By carrying over their old system permissions, they may retain access permissions to information from their old role that are not appropriate to the new role.
- In medicine: When old medical record information is carried forward in updates unless prompted for change, instead of periodically requesting updates, old medical insurance information remains in the electronic medical records system and is used to generate claims. I encountered this situation personally in a recent doctor’s visit for my child. I asked why the co-pay was over $200 when it should be closer to $50. The reason? The insurance information was five years old, unchanged since the last time we had used that specialist. I asked for a review of what they had and later discussed with the office manager what had happened. This default system setting was to keep the same medical records and health insurance information unless manually corrected on paper, signed by the patient (or as the case for my daughter, the parent), and then manually updated. Yet the clerk saw the filled in fields and submitted claims for a doctor’s visit – before the administrator recorded my written corrections to the insurance information print out. (They found the updated printed out form later.)
Given the situation, I paid what they asked for then and there for care. However, now I have to cope with more forms, the insurer and reimbursements. If the default state in their Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system had been to request an update and then only proceed with processing after confirming the information was the same, the medical establishment would have had far fewer rejected claims and resubmittals.
And on a personal note, my daughter is recovering nicely.