The Link Between HIPAA and Document Destruction

Posted by david on Aug 10, 2018 9:14:37 AM

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was a very important measure for securing health care eligibility and access to millions of Americans across the country, including retirees and those with existing medical conditions. Along with this expansion in health care requirements for insurance providers came a comprehensive privacy clause, meant to protect patients from third parties who may gain access to protected health information which could, in turn, leave them in a compromising position. What defines "protected health information" is very broad and includes any personal information pertaining to the patient, including where they live, their medical history and their payment history.

As we all become more reliant on digitally transmitted information, it can sometimes be easy to forget the importance of hard copies. There are still many practices and insurance providers throughout the country that rely on both electronic and paper copies for everything from Social Security numbers to insurance deductibles. This presents a security risk for the patient and places extra emphasis on the importance of properly discarding old paperwork and hard drives. A document shredding company will know what steps are needed to properly destroy those potentially damaging files.

Document Destruction

Getting rid of potentially HIPAA-violating documents is not as simple as throwing them in the trash, whether it be a physical or digital garbage can. That information needs to be discarded in a way that ensures no prying eyes can retrieve it in order to use for their own nefarious purpose. As such, document destruction companies can not only protect patient records but they can also save your business a very risky situation.

Regardless of the intent of the responsible employee or business, the fines associated with HIPAA privacy breaches are very high. According to government-provided information, there are over 400 businesses that are currently under investigation for HIPAA violations. One institution was even fined over $5 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for HIPAA violations. Much of these instances stem from private information (digital and physical) not being properly disposed of once it is no longer useful to the user.



Shredding Documents

The tool of choice for discarding printed medical files and insurance forms is nothing other than a paper shredder. Paper shredders come in many different shapes and designs but destroying hundreds of files and documents by hand with a small shredder can be quite the ordeal. Instead, institutions can choose options that are better suited for high volumes. A mobile shredding truck is a great option for businesses that need to destroy potentially HIPAA-violating documents in a quick, efficient, and safe way.

If this option doesn’t sound ideal, however, document destruction does not necessarily need to take place at your business. We can also take your old files to our facility where they will be destroyed securely. Alternatively, you can also bring your documents to our facility yourself and watch us destroy your old papers to ensure the safety of the process. With any of these viable options, the chances of experiencing a breach of personal information for one of your patients or clients becomes nearly impossible.

Hard Drive Destruction

For those who might not know, getting rid of files on your computer is not as simple as pressing the delete button or moving a file icon to a trash can. Even after files are deleted, much of that information still remains on your computer's hard drive. You can also try to overwrite the data, but that too isn’t a foolproof plan. A motivated or talented hacker can extract some of your most sensitive data and information, leaving you and your patients or client very vulnerable to fraud, theft, and legal disputes.

It’s very clear, then, that hard drive shredding is a much better option for permanently deleting private data. Hard drive shredding is exactly what it sounds like: Your hard drive will be put into a machine that will shred it into minuscule pieces that can never be put back together. With the destruction of the hard drive, you can also guarantee the destruction of any sensitive data that might be on it.



Why Choose a Document Destruction Service?

A fairly predictable question that might come to mind for a manager of an insurance company or a doctor running a private practice is, "Why should I bother finding a document shredding service near me when I can just buy a shredder and do it myself?" It's a good question and important for anyone concerned with maximizing their profit margin, but overall, the protection that a document destruction company provides far outweighs the costs of using the service.

Evidence of that is easily found on the American Medical Association's website where fines range anywhere from $100 to $1,500,000 for unknowingly violating the privacy clause.[3] In the end, it’s clear that document destruction services are much more cost-efficient and provide protection from costly office mishaps or potential corruption.

The same point can be made with old hard drives. Short of lighting them on fire, smashing them to pieces, or some other method of destruction that can be both messy and dangerous, there is really no good way to destroy an old hard drive in a secure way. Hackers have been known to go through the trash to find secure data that they can use to blackmail people, so you’re definitely better off using a bonded and insured service that will scrap your hard drive and mitigate your risk. We can help your business protect your clients' privacy and avoid HIPAA breaches.

The HIPAA privacy rules are very important in safeguarding patients' personal and protected information, including their name, Social Security number, address, ailments and insurance provider. Hard copies of this information can end up violating the HIPAA privacy rules by exposing personal information to third parties who are not authorized to view it, which makes having a document destruction service on call invaluable.

If your business or practice is in need of a dependable and professional document destruction service, trust none other than our professional team at South Bay Document Destruction. Give us a call at 310-217-9985 or visit our website today!

Topics: Document Shredding Near Me