HIPAA Shredding Guidelines for Protected Healthcare Information

Do you wish to permanently remove files from your computer? Is your business required by law to destroy protected health information (PHI)?

In 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received over 550 reports of PHI breaches. This affected more than 40 million people.

Companies must install reasonable safeguards to protect PHI. Do you want to know more about HIPAA’s shredding and permanent file deletion guidelines? Keep reading to learn how to ensure compliance.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Penalties

Failing to establish reasonable PHI protection safeguards can lead to unauthorized disclosures. This can harm individuals as well as the organization that held the data.

HHS may charge $100 in civil penalty fines per single HIPAA violations. If there are many infractions of the same kind, the penalty can increase to $25,000.

If willful violations are found, HHS can hand down severe criminal penalties. The lowest fine is $50,000 to a maximum of $250,000. The organization may also have to pay restitution to the victims and even serve jail time.

Are You a HIPAA-Covered Entity?

The HIPAA rules apply to “covered entities” (CE). This may describe an individual or an organization. Examples include health clearinghouses and plans as well as healthcare providers.

HIPAA Rules Addressing Permanent File Deletion

All CEs must ensure the implementation of HIPAA-compliant PHI protection and disposal. Every employee is also required to receive training on these procedures and protocols. This includes supervisors, staff members, and volunteers involved in disposing of PHI.

HIPPA forbids simple abandonment of PHI or placing it in containers accessible by the public. The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule doesn’t dictate the specific method used. CEs must examine their situation and find a way to safely dispose of PHI.

The following discusses several secure methods for PHI disposal.

File Shredding

If your business uses paper records containing PHI, you need to use the following methods. These documents may be destroyed by burning, pulverizing, pulping, or shredding.

The key is to render the information permanently unrecoverable. For example, no one can put the pieces back together to read the data.

Another example concerns labeled prescription bottles. Always store these items in a secure area inside an opaque bag or container. Use a professional vendor that collects and shreds or destroys the PHI.

Digital File Shredding

Electronic media containing PHI needs robust, reliable software or hardware products for disposal. Some examples of external digital media include:

  • External hard drives
  • Optical media (CDs and DVDs)
  • USB flash drives
  • Tapes

These items can undergo degaussing which exposes them to strong magnetic fields. This causes disruption of the recorded magnetic domains. You may also disintegrate, incinerate, melt, pulverize, or shred these types of media.

Permanent Digital File Deletion

The HIPAA Security Rule also requires CEs to effectively delete electronic PHI. This may be found in a variety of locations including:

  • Browsing histories
  • Chats
  • Confidential documents
  • Deleted files
  • Emails
  • Financial documents
  • Hidden copies of files that were deleted
  • Music files
  • Pictures
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Spreadsheets
  • Videos
  • Word documents

Some users believe deleting a file and emptying the “recycle bin” takes it off the computer. In fact, the file’s clusters remain on the disk until they’re overwritten with other data.

One instance of overwriting still doesn’t protect the information. Professional recovery products can still restore the original data. Thus, organizations must use more secure methods in order to maintain HIPAA compliance.

Permanent Digital File Shredding

Shred Cube offers the best method to meet HIPAA-compliant data disposal. The IT professional plugs a small external device into one of the computer’s USB ports. Next, the user selects, drags, and drops the file(s) targeted for deletion.

This solution allows the user to shred multiple digital files at the same time. The device scans your computer and cloud accounts to find all visible and hidden file copies. You can feel confident that all files you wish to remove are permanently erased.

Benefits of Permanent File Deletion

shred cube ready to delete files with white background

The Shred Cube offers many benefits for your company or individual needs. This product doesn’t use any software downloads. Thus, you’ll reduce malware, ransomware, and other cyberattacks and breach risks.

To ensure permanent file deletion, Shred Cube overwrites the deleted file seven times. The result is unrecoverable shredded pieces. This follows the method recommended by the Department of Defense (DOD).

Using this approach protects financial files, intellectual property, logins, PHI, and other sensitive data. It also frees up more space on your hard drive by removing all associated files.

The Shred Cube updates the device’s technology using secure and automatic methods. It’s also compatible with laptops and tablets and its small size makes it easy to transport.

Using the Shred Cube doesn’t affect the functionality of your computer’s hard drive. This lets your operating system continue to work as normal. It also works quickly because it doesn’t install software on your system.

You’ll have peace of mind that hackers won’t be able to access your protected data. This also ensures HIPAA compliance and protection for your clients.

Are You Looking for the Best File Deletion Solution?

For CEs to ensure HIPAA compliance, they must use high-level permanent file deletion. Shred Cube, located in Front Royal, VA, provides secure digital file management solutions.

We offer digital and USB-formatted digital file deletion services. Our team improves your data security by removing unnecessary and unsecured files. You can rely on our experts to destroy these files and prevent unauthorized access.

Contact Shred Cube today to ensure HIPAA-compliant permanent file deletion.

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