HIPAA help – because paper still exists

At the end of June, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that there was an $800,000 settlement in a medical records dumping case. When I read the article I was totally flabbergasted. Boxes of patients’ records were left in a retiring physician’s driveway.

NEMT President Linda Allard

Parkview hospital was helping a retiring doctor move her patients’ records to a new provider’s office. They took possession of her files while they were considering purchasing part of her practice. In June 2009, employees from Parkview Hospital, who knew the doctor wasn’t at home, left 71 cardboard boxes of medical records in a driveway that was unattended and accessible as it was 20 feet from a public road. The driveway was also very close to a popular shopping venue.

This case reminds me that, although we are focused on electronic media, there is still a lot of paper being used.

OCR says that paper was responsible for 23% of major health breaches in 2012. That number is not insignificant, and this case is a reminder that we need to look at how we are protecting the paper records in our possession.

Are they ever left on a desk that the public can access? How about a copy machine or fax machine? Have you done any recent training with your staff regarding paper records? How are you disposing of or transporting your paper records? Do all individuals involved in the handling of paper records understand exactly what they can and cannot do? If you have a business associate involved with your paper records, have you checked their policies to make sure they are doing what they need to be doing?

This is definitely a good reminder that paper still exists and we need to make sure we are giving it the full attention that it deserves. For more information on the story, go to http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2014pres/06/20140623a.html.

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About Linda Allard

Linda Allard is the president of NEMT.
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