What if there was no data stored electronically and everything was still manual paperwork?
A few years ago I read a book that investigated historical events, but instead of illustrating what actually happened, it built out scenarios based on what would have happened if history played out differently. I was fascinated by these hypothetical results, such as what would have happened if Germany didn’t surrender in WWII, or what if the paperclip was never invented! I wanted to apply the same scenario shift, to see what would have happened in two different industries, if technology was not used.
My first declared major at USC was Accounting. Not sure why I did that, but it was the thing to do at that time. Back then we did not get to use any accounting software or technology to help with “crunching the numbers”. We used green ledgers writing down debits and credits with a pencil. I soon transferred to a different major because that manual process was making my eyes bleed.
But what if technology was not created for the financial sector? Daily and monthly financial transactions would still be as I remembered, all handwritten. Before the month or quarter could be closed out, there would have to be another review of the journal entries to ensure accuracy. The amount of time and labor to ensure that accuracy, would have kept most of our modern financial firms from growing as quickly as they have.
From a security standpoint, how do you secure those ledgers and subsequent financial statements from prying eyes or bad actors? A file cabinet, hopefully with a lock. Not exactly the securest way to protect company’s financial data. The other day I had to get into a locked cabinet at work and no one had the key. All it took was a knife and a little force.
We are talking about financial data, and today we have governance policies around how data is handled and who can access what. Additionally, we have regulatory bodies in place to clamp down even harder on the rules related to data. What if you’re walking down the street with your trusty brief bag and a strong wind blows the bag from your hand and all of your client’s files (with individual pages) flew out and ended up all over the street? Not only would you have an issue with verifying you got all of the pages, but then they would have to be put back in the order they were filed and you would have to ensure no other person on the street looked at them as they were helping you pick them up. What do you think FINRA, SEC or the FDIC would think about that?
Back in high school, when I thought I was indestructible, I twisted an ankle during a tennis match. I did not think much of it, went home, wrapped it and later went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night and had to go to the hospital because I apparently had torn every muscle and ligament around the ankle. Needless to say, the doctor scheduled surgery to repair all of the damage.
What if technology never entered the healthcare industry helping to manage and secure patient records? Just like the financial sector, those patient records would be stored in a file cabinet behind the check-in counter or maybe down the hallway on the way to an examination room. Again, hopefully with a lock.
Let’s go back to my ankle surgery. Before the surgery, I’m relying on the nurse and doctor pulling the right patient record. What if there was a George Phillips and the nurse accidentally looked at that record and determined the doctor could use morphine during surgery- but I was allergic? That would have caused quite an issue for me and probably for the nurse and doctor from a malpractice standpoint.
What about patient confidentiality and accuracy? What if after surgery, I took a trip out of state and had post-op issues and had to go to another medical facility? That facility does not have my patient information, so they would have to request, via fax, to receive some of the records so they can treat my issue. Someone in the office receives the fax and gives it to the nurse or the doctor. Confidentiality should have been limited to the nurse and the doctor not others in the office.
Personally, I do not like these “what if scenarios” about no technology. From a security, confidentiality, and accuracy standpoint, continuing with manual processes only leads to an increased threat landscape. Yes, technology can be expensive, lead to evolving or changing operational processes, and can make other processes more burdensome than just walking over to the file cabinet, but If I’m going to trust my identity and future in other people’s hands, then I definitely want to know that there are systems and applications in place that are removing human error.