Tips For Properly Disposing Of Paperwork Containing Patient Information

Posted on: 15 September 2014

If you manage a business that deals with sensitive patient information, such as a doctor's office or health insurance agency, you are bound by HIPAA laws to take action to ensure that each person's medical records are kept private. This includes disposing of any paperwork properly. Below are some tips that will help you adhere to the privacy act and keep your patients' information safe.

Black Out Any Personal Information

Once you have finished with any worksheets, patient rosters, or face sheets, block out anything that could expose the identity of the individual. This includes such items as their name, address, social security number, and phone numbers. 

Make sure you use a thick, black marker. While you could use an ink pen to scribble a name or number out, it could still be read from the other side if held up to the light.

Even if you are going to be shredding the papers or sending them out to be professionally processed, do not skip this important step. Even small pieces of paper could be pieced together if someone was trying to find out a person's medical status or prescriptions.

After you have marked through every page, put them in a special bin or box so that everything can be shredded later. This can be done either by your staff or a professional service.

Use A Cross-Cut Shredder For Small Amounts Of Paperwork

If you have an office that does not produce large amounts of paperwork a week because of a small patient load, you can shred any paperwork yourself. When you go this route, make sure that you use a cross-cut shredder as opposed to a standard one that only cuts pages vertically.

The cross-cut shredder will cut both vertically and horizontally. Along with blacking out any information with a marker, this step will make it almost impossible to piece together any patient data.

If you have a large patient roster and have huge mountains of paperwork to get rid of each week, you may want to think about hiring a professional service. They have industrial-sized shredding machines that can handle the load of papers. 

While every step is taken by these companies to maintain patient confidentiality, you should still black out information in case an errant page falls out. Also, you may decide to shred your pages at the office, then have the pieces picked up by the service for incineration. 

Place All Paper Or Paper Pieces In A Special Locked Bin Or Room

Whether or not you decide to shred your papers, you still need to keep both pages and paper pieces out of the reach of anyone who is not allowed to view private patient information. To ensure this, you will want to set aside a special area for recyclable patient files.

If you have small amounts of paperwork each week, you should be able to get away with using a bin that locks. It should have a slot on the side so that the pages or pieces can be placed within it without having to open the box.

When large amounts of paperwork need to be disposed of, you should still use the boxes or bins. However, you also need to designate a locked room for them to be stored in.

By using the tips above, you can ensure that personal patient paperwork that is thrown away does not fall into the hands of anyone not authorized to view it. For more tips on disposing of records, go to sites or talk to a service that provides professional document shredding and recycling. They can give you a personalized plan and may be able to set up a pickup service for your shredded paperwork.