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Medical Record Shredding Guidelines



April 21, 2021



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Medical Record Shredding Guidelines

Medical Record Shredding Guidelines. Medical records contain sensitive patient information that is required by law to be maintained and stored for protection. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has set standards to ensure that medical records that are retained are kept in safety. Each state has specific time limits allocated for how long medical records are to be retained. There comes a time when the life cycle of the medical records deem destruction necessary, and for paper documents there is not only a requirement for destruction, but proof is needed in case of audit or legal situations. Professional medical waste disposal companies that include shredding as part of their expertise such as Healthcare Waste Management are knowledgeable in all state retention laws for medical records.

Why Medical Records Protection and Destruction is Important

The privacy rules set up by HIPAA guidelines dictate that covered entities, which include but are not limited to healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, and health plans, must create reasonable safeguards to avoid breaches and disclosures of medical records and their contents. Compliance includes a financial incentive; however, non-compliance violations can result in fines. Unknowing HIPPA violations can involve $100 civil penalties for each failure found and can go up to $25,000 per year. Violations that have been found to be intentional can range from $50,000 to $250,00 in criminal penalties as well as from one to ten years in prison.

Have a Strict Schedule and Monitor

Establish a strict end-of-life schedule for medical records management.  Medical records that have expired and are no longer needed should be segregated for destruction. HIPAA requires that medical records be kept for six years after their creation. Some state laws may have longer time periods.

If medical records storage is on site, maintain a written schedule for cycling medical records due for destruction and monitor each step to ensure that the records are never available for unauthorized personnel. For offsite medial records storage extra steps are needed to comply with the same written schedule and to ensure no unauthorized entities have access during storage or through the destruction process.

Complete Shredding with Professional Service

Companies such as Healthcare Waste Management specialize in the security of all medical records and use high tech shredding processes to ensure that all paper is destroyed.  Destruction involves a unique process of “piece and tear” so that the paper is indistinguishable and can never be used or put together. Documents can be placed in secure bins supplied by Healthcare Waste Management without the removal of folders or paper clips. 

Professional medical document shredding companies such as Healthcare Waste Management will supply a “certificate of destruction” to the client. This certificate includes a detailed list of security processes for the medical records “chain of custody” and can be used as proof of destruction. The certificate typically includes shredding date and time, location, witnesses, and a serialized transaction number that is unique to the shredding so that it abides with compliance laws.


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