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BYU information systems professor tackles health fraud in India

All is not well in the land of milk and curry, but conditions are improving. Plagued by the disease of dirty business, India’s health system was weighed down by fraudulent bids for supplies. Conan Albrecht, a professor of information systems at Brigham Young University, accepted the challenge to find a cure.

“I see corruption as one of the biggest problems underdeveloped countries face,” Albrecht said. “It drags these countries down, and it doesn’t need to be that way.”

Under the direction of the World Bank, a major financer of health projects in India, Albrecht spent three years creating and implementing a nationwide fraud detection system for the country’s health care program. The five-month-old system is a compilation of many years of research for the professor, who firmly believes that the end of fraud in India is the beginning of better living conditions.

“My research has shown that corruption holds a country’s GDP down,” Albrecht explained. “GDP might improve, but one large corruption case can leave the country trying to reach pre-fraud levels for several months. Getting rid of corruption means more than just better health care — it means opening up possibilities for a nation to improve as a whole.”

After extensive research in India, Albrecht successfully designed a program to combat corruption. Every bid for medical supplies, be it in Mumbai or New Delhi, now hits a central health care database and is scanned for 42 different indicators of fraud. If anything registers as fraudulent, an investigation begins before money is even exchanged. While individual bids may be flagged, the bidding process is not slowed down by Albrecht’s program, making it proactive and time efficient.

“This is an incredible breakthrough,” says Marshall Romney, information systems department chair. “If this program is deemed successful, it’s sure to affect many countries for the better.”

Several countries in South America and Southeast Asia are lined up to capitalize on Albrecht’s research. The program is already being utilized in the United States by North Carolina’s government agencies.

But Albrecht’s research isn’t only applicable for legislators. He’s currently working on an open-source fraud kit, Picalo, which will allow professionals in any industry, big or small, to apply the program to their line of work. With the help of detectlets, automated plug-ins that catch scams, users can run complex analyses, interpret the results and stop potential frauds. And because it’s open-source, it’s all free.

“I’ve always wanted to do research that is right on the edge of the real world where it has impact,” Albrecht said. “There is great fulfillment in doing both quality research and making a difference in the world today.”

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Writer: Megan Bingham


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