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After you scan: Proper disposal of protected health information

We’re here to help you with great scanners for bulk medical scanning. You could say we’re here to help you stay on top of things. So before you scan, be sure you know the proper way to dispose of all that paper once it’s captured.

Last week, there was a story released about the fines levied against healthcare practices that improperly dispose of their medical records. With Meaningful Use dollars to be made from digitizing paper records, it’s crucial that your practice disposes of protected health information (PHI) responsibly after scanning.

So, how exactly do you dispose of PHI correctly? According to the Department of Health & Human Services, the acceptable methods are:

  • For PHI in paper records, shredding, burning, pulping, or pulverizing the records so that PHI is rendered essentially unreadable, indecipherable, and otherwise cannot be reconstructed.
  • Maintaining labeled prescription bottles and other PHI in opaque bags in a secure area and using a disposal vendor as a business associate to pick up and shred or otherwise destroy the PHI.
  • For PHI on electronic media, clearing (using software or hardware products to overwrite media with non-sensitive data), purging (degaussing or exposing the media to a strong magnetic field in order to disrupt the recorded magnetic domains), or destroying the media (disintegration, pulverization, melting, incinerating, or shredding).

Keep in mind the PHI must be rendered “essentially unreadable, indecipherable, and otherwise cannot be reconstituted,” no matter how it’s disposed of.

And even if the PHI follows all of these guidelines, you still cannot deposit it into any “dumpsters, recycling bins, garbage cans, or other trash receptacles generally accessible by the public or other unauthorized persons.”

What about hiring another company to dispose of your PHI? That’s fine, as long as you “enter into a contract or other agreement…to appropriately safeguard the PHI through disposal.” You may hire a vendor to handle your pickup, shredding, burning, pulping, or pulverizing of paper PHI, and the destruction of the electronic media, along with its disposal.