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Back to the Basics of Healthcare Data Security

By Shopify API March 26, 2019

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s more and more attention is placed on enterprise level IT data security measures, many health care organizations fall short with sensitive data before it even enters the IT stream.  Pharmacies have a particular challenge because they are more numerous and are often the ones who first make contact with HIPPA protected data.  Pharmacies can be found every ware from hospitals to grocery stores and many have incurred huge penalties for not complying with HIPPA recommendations for destroying data.  One example of this is CVS Caremark Corp., who unfortunately has learned the hard way—paying out 2.25 million dollars in settlement for a HIPPA violations.  The problems surrounded local CVS pharmacies that were throwing out patient information found on pill bottles, medication instruction sheets, and pharmacy order information.  This widely publicized case has shown many HIPPA conscious organizations that even with the highest security IT infrastructure the source of the data must also be protected. Pharmacies and other healthcare organizations have found that the most effective means of protecting data is to destroy it. Logo Immediately upon entering data into the HIPPA compliant customer database, employees should be instructed to destroy all physical records into a cross cut shredder. New shredders have been designed to specifically handle the challenge of destroying pill bottles and prescription pads, both of which can present feeding and jamming problems with traditional cross cut shredders. Shred Pill Bottles and Perscription Bottles One such example is the Datastroyer Medical Shredder by Whitaker Brothers. 65 years of dealing with unique data destruction challenges, Whitaker Brothers has helped develop this shredder to specifically meet the growing need of pharmacies.  By increasing the throat size, adding an automatic oiler, and shortening the cabinet to fit under store counters, these new devises are able to tackle challenges that pharmacies have been trying to solve for years.  Although Whitaker Brothers is a leader in specialty shredders such as the Medical Shredder and industrial data destruction equipment, they also advise using smaller, office-sized shredders if available.  One popular office shredder used in pharmacies and hospitals is the Destroyit 2604. Some proven shredder manufacturers include Destroyit by MBM and Intimus by Martin Yale. Here are a few shredder tips for pharmacies.
  1. Shred throughout the day to prevent a buildup of large quantities of secure information.
  2. Oil the machine regularly to reduce the clinging effects of sticky prescription labels and pads.
  3. When choosing a shredder, choose one that has a continuous duty motor and built with a solid cutting shaft.  These shredders easily last for 10+ years, making them a solid investment.
  4. Measure the height of the shredder.  Space is usually at a minimum in most pharmacies, so a shredder that can fit under the customer service counter in ideal.
  Many major pharmacy chains are taking this problem very seriously.  Hy-Vee, Winn-Dixie, Market Basket and many other pharmacies across the the country are developing new policies that incorporate shredding into their security procedures. Another solution to the pharmacy HIPPA problem has been to use a shredding service, which has it’s own security risks.  Many security professionals fear that when you hand over documents to a shredding service, you are relinquishing control of your security program.  Leading the pack in patient security are hospitals like the VA Medical Centers across the country that require shredders that are on location to have full control of their security.  Many health organizations would never relinquish sensitive database information, so why should they relinquish their customer data in paper form?  Other factors such as ongoing monthly billing and continued price increases make shredding services less and less desirable.  Here are a few factors that contribute to shredding service price increases: On Site Shredding Service
  • Rising gas prices (fuel surcharges)
  • Truck and equipment maintenance
  • Higher labor costs
  • Increases in liability insurance premiums
  • Inflation
  It’s well known that a single database can hold hundreds of thousands of client records, so it’s no wonder that such a great emphasis is placed on protecting these assets.  However, when building virtual Fort Knoxes around client data hidden behind firewalls, protected with the highest encryption levels and security protocols, we shouldn’t ignore potential security breaches that are in plain sight.

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