The Benefits of Document Shredding for Medical Practices

POV: Medical Practice Office Manager

A blonde woman in white blouse and yellow skirt is removing paper from a purple waste basket in an open office space with books on shelves in the background.We have a local college student doing her medical administrative placement with us. She is absolutely wonderful. She is motivated, inquisitive, teachable and a quick learner. One of her most recent learning experiences occurred when I saw her tearing up medical documents she had just printed and was tossing them into the recycle bin.

“What are you doing with those?” I asked.

“Oh, these? I accidentally printed two copies. You don’t want them in the recycling bin?”

“They need to be shredded,” I replied.

“Yes, I know that. That’s why I’m tearing them up.”

Right then, I knew this was going to be a critical teachable moment. “Actually, all of the information we produce is considered Protected Health Information (PHI), and we are legally obligated to protect it with all our ability. One way we can do that is by properly shredding it. Shredding PHI has many benefits.” Then I went on to list them for her:

  1. Shredding helps us remain compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that requires all PHI that is being disposed of to be “rendered essentially unreadable, indecipherable, and otherwise cannot be reconstructed.”
  2. Shredding safeguards patient confidentiality. Patients have the right to have their information protected, and healthcare providers have a legal and ethical obligation to protect their private information.
  3. Shredding reduces storage space. All records have a specific retention period. Records must be destroyed at their designated time. This not only lowers the risk of the information being lost or stolen, but it also removes unnecessary files allowing for more usable space. Since we are constantly adding more patients and records, we need to constantly make enough room.
  4. Shredding protects our reputation. Destroying private records prevents the information from landing in the wrong hands, compromising the trust between us and our patients, customers, and staff. If privacy breaches become headline news, it could be game over for the medical practice.

“Okay, that makes perfect sense,” she responded. “Thank you. Now, where is the shredder?”

“Next lesson,” I said. “There is no shredder. We rely on the services of an outside shredding company.”

She was shocked. “What? You pay someone to shred your documents? Why?”

“Great question!” I said. With that, I explained some of the important reasons we use a professional shredding company rather than our own shredding machine:

  1. A professional shredding company will comply with HIPAA laws and ensure our documents are properly shredded. Then we never have to be concerned about our clients’ private information.
  2. They can recycle material we can’t. Our waste management company can’t recycle shredded paper, but a professional shredding company will send it directly to a paper recycling plant to be pulped and turned into new paper products. We want to protect the earth as well as our patients’ information.
  3. A NAID AAA Certified and HIPAA-compliant shredding company will supply lockable shred collection containers we can drop any and every document and file into, come on a regular basis and take them to be shredded, protect the discarded documents all the way to their industrial shredding plant and through the shredding process, all adhering to the highest security standards in the industry within in an unbroken chain of custody.
  4. They use trained and knowledgeable staff to do the work so we can focus on our primary task. In the long run, we save money and valuable time and we’re not purchasing, replacing, or repairing equipment.
  5. Most importantly, a professional shredding company can provide us with a Certificate of Destruction for our records, so if we are ever audited, we have proof of our compliance with data privacy laws. If we shred our own documents, we have nothing to prove we did it.

“Wow, I’m really learning a lot here!” she said. “This is the best work environment I’ve been in.”

Wrapping It Up

Richards & Richards provides NAID AAA Certified, HIPAA-compliant document destruction services for medical practices and many other businesses throughout Nashville. We are your local solution to the secure and proper destruction of PHI. For more information, call us at 615-242-9600 or complete the form on this page. Our experts are standing by to assist you.

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