Paper records having names, medical histories, and Social Security numbers, containing particulars of cancer analyses and sexually transferred illnesses, have been discarded at a recycling place in Pennsylvania.
The records seem to have originated from Women’s Health Consultants, a gynecology and obstetrics practice which had facilities in Hanover Township and South Whitehall Township, PA.
How the files were discarded at the recycling facility is not known since the container where the files were disposed of wasn’t covered by reconnaissance cameras.
The facility does have a sealed reprocessing container where confidential papers having private information can be placed securely, however that container was not utilized. The files were discarded in a container where they might be retrieved by illegal persons.
The individual who found the records left an unnamed clue on the not required emergency care line of the Allentown communication center. As per The Morning Call, a city worker visited the recycling facility and pushed the files more into the container, so they were no more noticeable. The vessel has since been laden onto a lorry and is no more available to the general public. The vessel will be dispatched on to a recycling firm.
The secrecy breach has been informed to the office of Pennsylvania attorney general, even though, it’s not clear whether an inquiry into the case has been started.
HIPAA needs all real records having patients’ PHI to be disposed of securely, making all info indecipherable and unreadable, so that it can’t be recreated. For document records, this usually involves pulping, shredding, or burning the records. If that procedure is to take place off-site, the files must be safeguarded in transit to make sure they can’t be retrieved by illegal people.
The failure to discard files securely can attract a substantial fiscal fine, ranging from $100 to $50,000 for each case.
The Division of Human and Health Services’ OCR has already penalized healthcare companies for incorrectly disposing of medical files. During 2015, Cornell Prescription Pharmacy resolved an illegal dumping incident with OCR for $125,000.