Document Destruction for Healthcare Facilities. When it comes to healthcare and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance, the stakes are high. If your organization is subject to HIPAA standards, or is working towards becoming compliant, you’ll want to be sure that you’re handling all patient information, Protected Health Information (PHI) with due diligence. This post will explain the concerns associated with document destruction in healthcare facilities. You’ll come away from this article with a better understanding of how to handle sensitive patient information in a way that is both compliant and respectful of your patients’ rights. Let’s get started!
As per the HHS.gov website. “Covered entities must review their own circumstances to determine what steps are reasonable to safeguard PHI through disposal and develop and implement policies and procedures to carry out those steps. In determining what is reasonable, covered entities should assess potential risks to patient privacy, as well as consider such issues as the form, type, and amount of PHI to be disposed. For instance, the disposal of certain types of PHI such as name, social security number, driver’s license number, debit or credit card number, diagnosis, treatment information, or other sensitive information may warrant more care due to the risk that inappropriate access to this information may result in identity theft, employment or other discrimination, or harm to an individual’s reputation.”
HIPAA does not require a specific disposal method; however, shredding is listed as a proper method for disposing of Protected Health Information (PHI) in the forms of both paper and electronic waste. There are two main topics of concern when it comes to document destruction in healthcare: privacy and security. Privacy. Patient confidentiality is a crucial aspect of good healthcare. This means that sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, addresses, and diagnosis codes, should not be shared or accessed outside of the context of the patient’s care. For this reason, you must take great care to protect any documents containing personal information. Security. You also need to ensure that your documents are not susceptible to theft or accidental disclosure. This means taking measures to make sure that patients cannot access documents that don’t apply to them and that your own employees cannot read documents that they don’t have authorization to see.
As we saw above, there are two primary privacy concerns when it comes to handling documents in a healthcare setting: sensitive data and protected health information (PHI). Sensitive data is any information that is not relevant to the patient’s medical treatment and should therefore be kept private. PHI, on the other hand, is any information that is relevant to a patient’s treatment. This includes things like diagnosis codes and Social Security numbers. The difference between these two types of information is that sensitive data is protected by privacy laws, while PHI is protected by HIPAA laws. You can see, then, that patient privacy is a serious issue in healthcare settings.
As you can see, there are a lot of potential privacy and security issues that could arise from handling documents in a healthcare setting. Document shredding, then, offers many advantages when it comes to handling documents in healthcare. First, it is a great way to reduce paper waste in your facility. Paper is not biodegradable, and most paper documents can easily be digitized, making them much more eco-friendly. Paper documents can also be subject to privacy and security concerns, as we mentioned above. Shredding and disposing of documents in a responsible way is the best way to avoid these issues. Shredding is also a great way to protect against identity theft. Identity theft is a huge concern these days and is often facilitated by stolen or improperly disposed of documents. To avoid this, you should shred all documents containing sensitive or personal information.
To be clear, we recommend that every organization shred all documents containing PHI. This includes patient charts, billing documents, and anything else that could contain PHI. Beyond that, you should ensure that your shredding service is HIPAA compliant. This means that it has a system in place to prevent PHI from being accessible through the shredding process. You should also have a tracking system in place to make sure that your shredding process is compliant.
There are a few reasons why an outside company might be better suited to handle your organization’s document destruction needs than your internal team. First, many document shredding companies offer services that are HIPAA compliant. This means that they have the experience, knowledge, and tools to handle all the requirements necessary to meet HIPAA standards. Your internal team, on the other hand, might not have the necessary experience or tools to meet all these standards. In addition to meeting HIPAA standards, a document shredding company can provide you with an audit trail, which will give you a record of when documents were shredded and by whom. This can help you to avoid issues related to compliance.
We hope that you now have a better understanding of the legalities and ethical concerns associated with document destruction in healthcare facilities. While this process may seem tedious, it’s an important part of protecting sensitive patient information. For best results, you should use a HIPAA-compliant shredding company to shred any documents containing PHI. You will benefit from hiring a third party to handle document destruction for you. To learn more about document destruction in healthcare, give Bio-MED Confidential Document Destruction a Call Today.
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