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April 27, 2022

Guide to HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare Record Shredding

Ensuring that files are properly disposed of is important for every organization and all private citizens. No one understands this more than those handling protected health information (PHI) in the medical field.

Healthcare providers are subject to severe fines and possible legal action should they breach the stringent rules and regulations laid out by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). So what exactly is HIPAA and what can you do to ensure that your medical organization stays compliant? Though it may seem overwhelming at first, there are a few things that you can do to help ensure compliance. Let’s take a look.

 

What is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?

In 1996, the United States government passed HIPAA as a federal law in an effort to better protect an individual’s medical information from being disclosed to others without the individual’s consent. Additionally, HIPAA helps to encourage the flow of information between different healthcare providers so that citizens can receive more personalized care.

However, this flow of information increases the risk of sensitive data being exposed to unauthorized individuals. To counteract this, a Privacy Act was added to the law that imposes strict guidelines regarding exactly what types of information can be shared and who is allowed to share it.

What information is protected under HIPAA?

Any information that is considered PHI is protected under HIPAA. Documents such as health records, test results, and medical bills are the most common forms of PHI, though there are countless other documents that contain 18 identifiers laid out in HIPAA. These identifiers include:

  • Names
  • Email addresses
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Phone numbers
  • Photographs or X-Rays
  • Health insurance account information
Secure Shredding
Medical Record Shredding

Who needs to comply?

To put it simply, every individual and organization that works with or around documents containing PHI must adhere to HIPAA regulations regarding the handling, sharing, and disposal of these documents. You may hear these individuals and organizations referred to as “covered entities.”

Healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, insurance companies, and business associates that carry out healthcare-related functions are all considered covered entities under HIPAA. Any covered entity is also responsible for ensuring that its staff is properly trained on the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance. This training extends beyond the day-to-day handling of the documents all the way through to the end of the disposal process.

How to Ensure HIPAA Compliance

There are a few different things that you can do to ensure that your organization remains compliant with all rules and regulations laid out by HIPAA. Such things as keeping sensitive documents locked in secure cabinets and rooms, ensuring that no files are left unattended, and installing firewalls and other security measures on devices and networks storing digital files are all standard procedures for most healthcare facilities.

However many organizations make the mistake of neglecting to properly dispose of the materials in question. In doing so, they open themselves up to sizable fines and legal action should the information contained within the documents be leaked. To prevent this, it is vital that all facilities and staff working with documents containing PHI ensure that all of the files they are disposing of are securely shredded. The most efficient and cost-effective way to do this is to hire a mobile shredding company that is experienced in medical record shredding.

A mobile medical record shredding company can take all of the documents in your organization’s care and render them unrecognizable by using an industrial shredding machine. This service is much more secure than an in-office shredding machine which is prone to leave behind long strips of paper that can be easily reassembled. To top it off, this type of shredding provider may also be able to shred your hard drives as well, ensuring that the PHI is protected from all angles.

How to Ensure HIPAA Compliance
Safely Dispose of Healthcare Records with PROSHRED®

Safely Dispose of Healthcare Records with PROSHRED®

Those in the medical field who would like to remain compliant with HIPAA regulations on an ongoing basis can benefit the most from regularly scheduled mobile shredding provided by PROSHRED®. Our team of shredding professionals understands just how important it is to protect the confidentiality of those who are trusting you with their care. That is why we have gone the extra mile to become an ISO 9001 certified and NAID AAA-rated shredding provider. With our fleet of state-of-the-art mobile shredding trucks, you can have peace of mind when it comes to the destruction of your materials. To learn more or get started ensuring your continued HIPAA compliance, contact us today for a free quote.

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