September 23, 2021

Ensuring Secure Destruction of Patient Records

Ensuring the Secure Destruction of Patient Records

Did you know the average cost of a data breach in healthcare is more than any other at $9.23 million according to 2021’s Cost of a Data Breach Report [1]? For many, data is widely regarded as the new oil. But data pertaining to healthcare is the most sought after of all – and data thieves will go to great lengths to obtain it.
Such is the unrelenting, ever more sophisticated nature of their attacks, healthcare continues to be the most targeted and most likely industry to suffer a data breach. In response, it’s imperative for healthcare professionals to do everything they can to protect the personal information of their patients.
Ensuring the secure destruction of patient records is right at the top of that of list. So, let’s explore some of essential steps you can take to prevent data breaches pertaining to medical records, to help you protect your patients, people and practice.

Preventing Patient Record Data Breaches

One of the biggest culprits attributed to data breaches is human error. In fact, according to the Cost of a Data Breach Report, human error still accounts for 23% of all data breaches [2] – with a lack of training often behind this. Staff members who are not adequately trained on what patient information should be protected, how it should be protected, and how it should be securely destroyed, are a data breach waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals can also be faced with budgetary concerns or limited resources, so they instead opt to use their own in-house document destruction equipment. And then there’s also the pressurised nature of the profession, which has only been amplified since the onset of COVID-19. Of course, patient health will always be a priority, but organisations have a legal and ethical duty to protect patient records.

In addition, such is the financial value of medical records, the threat landscape is wide. External bad actors are constantly seeking to exploit opportunities such as unsupervised medical files, or patient records that might be exposed during site moves, for example. Internal frauds and threats also continue to be a problem, especially when easy access to patient records isn’t exclusively granted to necessary personnel. So, what’s the solution?
Below are some steps you can take to ensure the protection and secure destruction of patient records.

1. Educate Employees

For any healthcare business, it’s essential that employees are not only aware of the risks, but are also comfortable dealing with and reporting data breaches. By educating staff via regular training and giving them the confidence to identify threats, as well as the ability to confidently handle patient records, this can greatly reduce the human error often attributed to data breaches.

2. Limit Access to Patient Information

Collecting and retaining patient medical records is part and parcel of the healthcare profession in Singapore. But only certain individuals will need access to them all of the time. So, try and keep track of who can access patient records and only grant access to patient information to the necessary personnel.

3. Establish a Document Management Policy

Documents, such as prescriptions, flowing in and out of your practice is a prerequisite of healthcare. But mislaid and mishandled paper documents are often at the root of high profile data breaches in the sector. By establishing a document management policy, you can gain a complete picture of documents, what information they contain and who has access to them.

4. If in Doubt, Shred-it All

For time-poor medical professionals working in a pressurised environment, determining if a document is confidential or not can be time-consuming and confusing. So, reduce the burden on workforces with a Shred-it All Policy – where all business documents are placed in a secure, locked console and securely destroyed once no longer needed.

5. Partner with a Document Destruction Specialist

Shred-it has a long and proud history of supporting the healthcare industry. By partnering with a document destruction specialist, this helps you to avoid the piling up of confidential documents and supports compliance with the PDPA, so you can focus on the all-important task of looking after your patients and serving communities.

Get in touch today to see how our services can protect your patients, people and practice.
[1] – Source: Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021
[2] – Source: Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020

Disclaimer: This article is provided for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not take, or refrain from taking, actions based upon the content of this article. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes. Please seek professional legal advice.