Medical records are highly confidential that there’s a certain level of standard for its disposal. The ways on how to destroy medical records may vary per state. The government expects medical practitioners to follow this to maintain the privacy of their patients. You can follow the tips I listed here when it comes to destroying your own medical documents. If you’re worried about you’re your files’ privacy in a medical institution, you can inquire about how they dispose of or store such documents.
Here, I’ll give you some important reminders to follow in getting rid of medical files. I also included shredder options for personal use at home or in the office.
1. Choose the highest level of security
Remember that you’re going to shred medical records so you should get a machine with the highest security. Micro-cuts are advisable for small organizations or home shredding of medical files while for large hospitals, it’s best to partner with a shredding company.
There are special types of shredders like super-cut and high-security but these aren’t usually available in commercial models. But as a rule of thumb, don’t go lower than a P-4 level of security.
Aside from paper, CDs and hard drives are also need to be shredded. In the case of hard drives, you may need to contact a shredding service.
2. If you’re a medical practitioner, check your state’s laws
If you’re working in a medical institution, you might already know how to destroy medical records. But as a refresher, you should check your state’s rules. For example, Pennsylvania requires doctors to keep the medical records of their patients for seven years after the last service. When you’re in Washington, doctors are only required to keep the files for three years, then ten years for hospitals.
In Virginia, medical practitioners are required to keep their patients’ records for six years and five years for hospitals after the date of discharge. Moreover, Maryland imposes a five-year records retention upon the document is made.
These are just some of the rules so make sure to check on your locality.
3. Consult with your lawyer and doctor
Medical records are used as evidence for court cases so make sure to ask your lawyer about it. If you’re dealing with a sensitive case, your medical records are crucial documents. Destroying it right away could put you in jeopardy.
If you’re in an ongoing treatment, seeking the advice of your doctor would be advisable before feeding the sheets to the shredder. If the hospital would be destroying your medical records in time for the expiration of its retention period, you may want to keep your copy.
4. Avoid asking someone unauthorized to destroy it for you
Handing your medical records to someone would be a big risk especially if your documents contain sensitive details. If you’re planning to ask for help, seek a company that gives professional shredding services instead of your neighbor that needs extra sheets to recycle for their paper logs. You have no way of confirming if they know how to destroy medical records it or they’ll just scour through it. Chances are they’ll have knowledge of your condition with an indirect permission.
5. Never toss it in the trash
Bin diving is a common thing especially for massive piles of paper. If you’re handling medical records, take time to shred it instead of putting it in a trash bag and throwing it in a dumpsite. You’ll never know where it would end up. Remember that the U.S. has a standard procedure for disposing of medical records of patients.
Once someone takes hold of the medical records, regardless if it’s past the retention period, it can be exploited and your patients’ privacy will be violated. You can be slapped with fines and penalties.
6. If you’re availing a service, check if they’re HIPAA compliant
The HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of the United States intend to protect patients’ interest by means of proper medical record disposal and retention. If you’re availing a third party service to shred the large piles of medical records from your organization, you should check if they comply with the HIPAA requirements.
You should look for a certification that they are qualified to shred such things that include hard drives, X-rays, CT scanners, EEG machines, and other equipment that store medical records. The third party should be entered in the HIPAA Business Associate Agreement as assurance that they know how to destroy medical records.
7. If you’re working in an organization, label your bins
In an office setup, documents can be shuffled during a busy day. To avoid this from happening, make sure that your bins are labeled well. This is pressing if your employees keep on crumpling paper. Putting a ‘For Shredding’ label on a specific bin will let them know that those aren’t fit for trash disposal. You should watch out for this too so you’ll know if everyone is following. It’s advisable to impose a sanction for those who will not follow your document disposal protocol.
8. Shred the outdated records regularly
Part of HIPAA compliance terms is regular shredding. This should be scheduled especially for big hospitals or organizations handling medical records. A clear schedule should be part of your operation protocol to prevent the breach of privacy of your patients or clients.
Aside from complying with the HIPAA, regularly shredding outdated records will make your job easy. It will declutter your workspace so you can save money from additional storage cabinets. Partnering with a third-party shredder will be the most convenient solution on how to destroy medical records
9. See to it that everyone in the workplace knows the rules
Sometimes, the problem isn’t about the means of disposal, but the people who should be doing it. Make sure that you remind everyone in your workplace about the privacy of documents and how they should destroy it. Letting them know of the fines and penalties will give them the picture of the responsibility they have.
This is crucial so you won’t be slapped with charges when your employee unknowingly threw hard drives in the trash can. Giving them a full briefing on the HIPAA compliance would pay off.
10. Always back it up
If you’re shredding personal medical records, you may want to back it up. You can scan it and store it in a protected device so you can still access it in the future. When it comes to the retention of your patients’ records, you can also make a backup as long as it follows the laws of the state.
How To Destroy Medical Records? Use These Shredders!
If you’re just destroying your own medical records or anyone in the house, you should use a reliable shredder. This is so no one can reassemble the documents once you put the shredded paper in the trash. The good thing is you no longer need to avail a third-party service as you can buy any of these shredders:
This shredder has a 17-sheet capacity on a micro-cut system so you’re assured that your medical records are shredded in the tiniest size possible for a commercial machine. The AmazonBasics shredder can work continuously for 20 minutes so you can shred other documents like credit cards or old CDs.
At security level P-4, this shredder will assure safety. This will shred a sheet of paper into 2,235 tiny pieces, unlike crosscut shredders that can only chop into 360 parts. The machine has a 7-gallon bin for less need of emptying. The pull-out bin will make disposal of the shredded paper easy.
To save energy, this machine will shut down after five minutes of idle time. The best part is that you’ll know how to destroy medical records for less than 200 bucks.
Another good choice for shredding your medical records is the Royal MC14MX Shredder. This is a micro-cut machine that can shred your sheets into 4 mm x 10 mm bits. There is also a separate cutting slot for your CDs and credit cards for added functionality. The paper opening is average at 8.75 inches for the perfect feeding of typical sheets.
Its 8.5-gallon basket can hold up to 575 sheets before you need to empty it. This has a console design that will fit offices and homes and this machine is also a little less expensive than the AmazonBasics.
Shredding is one of means on how to destroy medical records. Make sure that you’re following the right procedure to avoid legal complications in your business. For personal disposal of medical files, you can use the top picks of shredders I listed above. It may cost you some money but it will be worth it than having your sensitive information leaked. Also, a shredding machine will be an all-arounder equipment for your junk mails, expired cards, and other useless documents. What do you think of these points? Are you buying a shredder? Let us know!