Technology troubles hitting close

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

Hacking is having a moment right now. It's unavoidable, from the news of the Ashley Madison email dump to one of this summer's most buzzed-about TV shows.

Even shopping trips to my beloved Target were put in jeopardy last year when hackers stole credit and debit card data from an estimated 40 million customers (but I still shop there, because not even a data breach can keep me from that magical wonderland of reasonably-priced everything).

But what happens when a case of electronic data manipulation hits closer to home? The long-term care industry is pushing for more integration of technology in just about every facet of care. Unfortunately that same technology meant to make providers' lives easier can make something else easier, too — theft.

Take last week's case of the former nursing home bookkeeper who stole a little over $4,000 from residents accounts by modifying their electronic files to list her accomplices as their relatives, and then writing checks to those individuals. Relatively speaking, it's not a huge sum of money — we've certainly seen nursing home employees steal more in past cases. And yet the story was one of most read items on McKnight's last week. Why?

Because it could happen anywhere.

We like to assume that healthcare workers are a trustworthy bunch, especially when they're entrusted with caring for people's' loved ones. But manipulation of data, from patients' records to medication logs, seems to be a trend among workers who see it as a quick and evidence-free way to score some quick cash or pills, if recent news stories are any indication. It's shady and dishonest, and providers are right to be concerned.

The good news is cases like these have been thwarted by auditing. But a close eye will be needed as IT integration increases throughout long-term care. As one administrator I recently spoke with put it, it's important to have a strong system of checks in place to catch “bad apples.”

But even with our eyes peeled for bad apples some will be sure to slip through the cracks, make the headlines and have us asking “why?” all over again. Just remember, hacking isn't restricted to tech-savvy people holed up in dark rooms, threatening millions of people's data.

Sometimes all it takes is a few electronic form edits by the people we trust.

Emily Mongan is McKnight's Staff Writer. Follow her @emmongan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.