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Tales from the Dumpster: HIPAA Guidelines & Medical Records

dumpster-diving_hippaEarlier this month, workers cleaning out an abandoned storage unit in Richmond, Kentucky, found 65 boxes of medical records that belonged to a radiology office that is no longer in business. The documents in the boxes contained detailed sensitive information, including patient medical histories, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers.

While most of the contents in the storage units were discarded in a Dumpster, the worker who discovered the boxes realized that the information needed to be disposed of in a more secure fashion. He turned all 65 boxes over to the local hospital, which destroyed the records in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Passed in 1996, HIPAA was enacted as a Congressional attempt at healthcare reform designed as a two-fold program that would enable people to maintain their health insurance in between jobs, and to protect the confidentiality of patient information.

When people hear ‘HIPAA,’ they think about the additional forms on the clipboard that must be signed when they visit a doctor, dentist, or other provider of health services, but rarely do they read the fine print. The privacy rules set forth by the legislation outline administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected health information (phi) in all print and electronic formats:

  • Protected health information printed on paper must be shredded, burned, pulped, or pulverized in such a way that phi is ‘rendered essentially unreadable, indecipherable, and cannot be reconstructed.’
  • Labeled prescription bottles must be stored in an opaque bag in a secure location until destroyed by a certified disposal vendor.
  • Files stored electronically must be cleared, purged, or destroyed, in which case they are disintegrated, pulverized, melted, incinerated, or shredded.

EcoShredding is certified to shred all forms of sensitive information and is qualified to handle medical information in compliance with HIPAA regulations.

Medical offices specialize in the care and treatment of their patients’ health issues, and EcoShredding is their trusted partner to ensure that the information is maintained in accordance with laws and regulations.

Call the professionals at EcoShredding for all of your business’s shredding needs.

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