So much so that the same health company a few hours later had to make a communication on its site to explain that it was an error: “For a computer error, some patients received an SMS on Monday 25/05 on the evening containing the text following: ‘ATS Milano. Dear Ms / Ms you are Coronavirus case contact. We recommend that you remain isolated from your home, limit contact with cohabitants and measure fever every day. If you are a healthcare professional, follow the instructions of your company. ” A further correction text message was sent to the interested parties on Tuesday 26/05. For any information you can contact the phone number 02/85781. We apologize for the inconvenience”.
But the communication has gone around the social networks and many have used it as proof that the management of the epidemic by the Lombard health system has had more than one flaw. Contacted the same Ats of Milan, it was explained to us that “the situation created by sending the text message did not create particular discomfort: only on Tuesday morning at the switchboard of the health company did some calls come from alarmed patients asking explanations. For this reason, the top managers of Ats Milano decided to take immediate action and communicate on the site by sending a second text message to reassure everyone “. As specified by Ats Milano, “the number of patients who received the message is small and these are patients tracked, that is, who have been reported by the general practitioner to make swabs because they suspect cases of Covid19. Ats communicates the outcome to the family doctor and at the same time says it to the patient himself. ”
These are the facts. The considerations that open up, however, are disturbing, and from many points of view. Meanwhile, an error of this kind causes fear and unnecessarily agitates those who suffer from it, and for this the usual “sorry for the inconvenience” is not enough. And, in addition to the concern, how many will have canceled appointments and appointments after the message?
Then there are issues that pertain to the practice of communication between entities and people, for too long one-way: even in this case, the person who received the message did not have a number available to ask for information, which is instead denied via the web. He could not do the simplest thing, call the sender or write for information on what to do. Not even to make sure that the message really came from the ATS: in the absence of contact details, in fact, the SMS could have been sent by anyone who wanted to pretend to be the health company of the Lombard capital. And maybe one day he might ask us instead to leave the house to be able to act freely in the apartment that has remained empty.
Yet the lack of certainty about the identity of those who send messages or calls is an old problem, and if it is true that SMS are an easy and cheap way to reach a large part of the population, it is also true that yesterday it was the same Red Cross to get their hands on to warn that calls to invite the population to serological tests are not scams. Because then, as always, jackals are always ready to exploit people’s fear and uncertainty.
Such an error is always harmful, even when the damage is not evident. It adds to an already long list of other errors that undermine trust in those who organize and manage communications and IT security in the public administration. And this is even more serious because it happens on the eve of the launch of Immuni, the contact tracking app that could help contain future cases of coronavirus infection.