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Hospital Records Falsified in Waiting Room Death Case

July 3, 2008

By now you’ve probably seen the widely distributed and quite disturbing video showing a 49-year-old woman dying on the floor of a Brooklyn psychiatric hospital. The woman, Esmin Green, collapsed and died in the waiting room of the hospital and lay there for more than an hour until hospital staff responded. The hospital is now facing intense scrutiny from many groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Justice.

Among the many allegations leveled at the hospital and its staff is one concerning the authenticity of the electronic records relating to Green’s care. The New York Civil Liberties Union states that hospital staff falsified Green’s records in an attempt to cover up the amount of time she was without assistance.

“Contrary to what was recorded from four different angles by the hospital’s video cameras, the patient’s medical records say that at 6 a.m., she got up and went to the bathroom, and at 6:20 a.m. she was ‘sitting quietly in waiting room’ — more than 10 minutes since she last moved and 48 minutes after she fell to the floor.”

Considering the severity of the allegations and outrage over Green’s death and mistreatment, it is not difficult to comprehend the employee’s motivation for falsifying the times on Green’s records. In his blog BizTechTalk, Delphi Group’s Dan Keldsen asks, “Do YOUR systems support verifiable, tamper-proof audit trails? Are you synchronizing the date/timestamps of related systems, such as in this case, video surveillance?”

Keldsen goes out to ask his readers scary but important questions such as “can people back-date contracts in your organizations? Invoices? E-mail messages? If you need to roll-back your entire systems to a certain point in time to see exactly what offers were made to who and when, could you do it?”

This, of course, is a dramatic example of the importance of digital time-stamping. Though most companies do not deal in life and death matters on a daily basis, it’s critical to remember that someone could always have motivation to manipulate your electronic records and the results could lead to litigation, regulatory investigation or any number of other harmful consequences.

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