I was employed for a time at an outpatient medical clinic to help manage the flow of information from the region’s patient chart software to insurance company databases. A program to automatically move the data had already been implemented by the county hospital, but with insurance reimbursements on the line, I was brought in to finish up the transfer and take care of those cases that the software was not able to automatically complete.

This was pitched to me as a trivial task, all but a copy-paste office job. What I found while working however, shook the foundations of the regional health system.

I identify my intuition and pattern-recognition skills as one of my strongest suits. While transferring the data, I began to notice some bizarre, repeating inconsistencies in the insurance database. Almost all of them were “ghost” records for events that never actually happened; the prominent bug that first caught my attention created ghost colonoscopies on the same day as mammograms. The significant result: the red flags that alert care management staff about needed upcoming labs and procedures no longer trigger.

Keep in mind, this affects not only one clinic but every medical facility in the district of the local hospital (in suburban Bucks County, population density 1,000 per sq mile). Presumably dozens of other people at these facilities were performing the same data transfer operations, yet no one also noticed these patterns.When I brought these bugs to light, it came as a shock to many in the system, spurring important changes to the way data is handled. I was satisfied that I had delivered unprecedented value, not only to my employer, but the entire network which they are a part of. I found that even in situations where the job seems basic, by keeping an open mind I can make the job much more interesting and important.