3-30. PROBLEMS OF COMPUTERIZATION
a. A Mixed Blessing. Despite the promised and proven benefits of automation,
management has yet to harness the full potential of computers. Along with the benefits
have come a host of unresolved problems that have made the computer a mixed
blessing, at best. Those who have tried to correct an erroneous automated hospital bill,
or get off a mailing list, can relate to this assessment.
b. Computer Error and Downtime is realities with which most users are well
familiar. A client becomes hypertensive while waiting for a medical record number
because a computer is down. Patients are billed incorrectly or not at all because of
"computer error." Computer error and downtime can affect productivity and profits.
c. Data Pollution, also known as information overload, is a less publicized
problem. It exists when organizations are so overwhelmed with information they are
literally polluted with data. Information overload in health care operations means that
the very tools designed to simplify and improve operations contribute to the problem,
which can create a large financial drain on an institution.
d. Data Manipulation without Safeguards. It is a simple matter to change the
data stored on a computer system. It can be done without leaving a trace of any
tampering. A college student paid a friend in the computer center to change his "D"
transcript to straight "A's." Based on the fraudulent transcript he was accepted for
membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious academic society. It was only by chance
that a physics professor discovered the crime 3 years after the student had graduated,
when he noticed a discrepancy between his own handwritten grade sheet and the
e. Misuse of Equipment and Data by Authorized and Unauthorized Users.
There are known cases of employees using an organization's computer to run a
business. In San Jose, California, for example, two employees used two million dollars
worth of government computer time to establish their own company. Misuse of data is
an even more serious problem. Health care workers and criminal justice officials, for
example, have obtained sensitive personal information to embarrass, bribe or harm
f. Computer Viruses. Viruses are bits of computer codes entered into a
system through software. Some viruses have even been detected in commercial
software programs. A virus can infect a disk, scrambling or erasing files. Other viruses
are "trapdoors" that allow unauthorized access to information or exploitation of the
system. Recent court decisions have found perpetrators guilty of a crime, with penalties
including jail and high monetary loss, because viruses could have a devastating effect
on the flow of information. There have been no major incidents affecting Army
computers where proper precautions were taken.