Electronic Waste Management in Medical Facilities

electronic waste management

When you have to constantly think about what waste goes into which container, it's easy to get so absorbed that you lose the sight of other important things. You could be diligent in putting sharps in shutter-proof containers, but at the same time you might throw away a CD with a client's tooth X-ray into the trashcan under your desk. If you know what's wrong with this scenario, the word HIPAA has probably crossed your mind. Indeed, there are many other types of waste you need to worry about besides the bloody gauze and IV tubes. We've talked a bit in the past about HIPAA compliance during PHI disposal and best medical record keeping practices. But today we want to explore in more detail the types of electronic and computer waste produced by your facility and what to do with it.

Electronic and Computer Waste in Medical Facilities

Most medical facilities collect vast amounts of data about their patients and employees. From scheduled appointments to lab results and vaccination records, there are many kinds of personal information you gather and store in your facility. Thankfully, it's not all on paper anymore like in the good old days, which also presents certain challenges. In a typical medical facility, you may expect sensitive information to be stored on:

  • Internal and external hard drives
  • Portable USB drives and memory cards
  • Zip drives and floppy disks
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Audio and video tapes

When these devices and the data on them are no longer needed, it's important to make sure that they are unreadable. Not only is this required by law, but it's also a common sense practice to prevent identity theft. This can be achieved in a few different ways.

Destroying Sensitive Digital Data

There a few secure ways to destroy sensitive digital data stored by your facility. Of course, the most secure way is total destruction by shredding, grinding or melting. Once that's done, there is really no way to put the pieces back together and retrieve what was on the storage device. However, this approach is not always practical. Many times, digital storage devices can be recycled or reused in a different department within your facility. What do you do then?

Don't Just Delete

You are probably familiar with the panic that sets in when you delete an important file by accident. But even after you put it in a recycling bin and empty the bin, the file is not really gone. It's erased from the index, so you can't connect to its location, but it's still on the drive. With some knowledge and determination, the “deleted” information can be extracted from a storage device. Even if the hard drive appears “dead” and inaccessible, it is still not safe to just throw it in the trash.

Demagnetizing Storage Media

Magnetic media, such as hard drives, floppy disks and ZIP disks use magnetization to both read and record data on the device. Under the influence of a strong magnet, this magnetic field can be permanently impaired, so the storage media will be rendered useless. You will need specialized equipment to demagnetize (degauss) a hard drive or similar media—the regular household and even some commercial-grade magnets won't work. Here is a video explaining how degaussing works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQqG_14d8AA

Overwriting Storage Media

If you plan to reuse or recycle your device, you can overwrite it to erase all information on it. There is specialized software that can place a new layer of zeros and ones in place of your existing data, making it unreadable. For better security, several overwrites can be performed. Overwriting doesn't put new information on top of the old one—it randomizes the patterns in which the data used to be stored. Once that's done, you can install a new operating system or upload other types of files to your storage device. Keep in mind that overwriting can be used only on re-writable media. For example, some CD and DVD disks can only be used once to record information. You can't add any more files or delete files off such a disk. If you need this information erased, the media will have to be physically destroyed.

Other HIPAA Considerations

Get Secure Recycling Containers

If you are shredding paper or disposing of other types of sensitive data on your premises, consider placing this waste in secure, lockable containers. Dumpster diving for personal information is nothing new, and even finely shredded paper can be pieced back together with some effort. Ask your medical waste removal vendor if they offer secure containers. At BWS, we carry several options of lockable containers and can even do the shredding for you at our secure facility. After the paper is shredded, we send it to a recycled paper mill or an incinerator, depending on your preferences.

Take Measures Against Hacks

It's your responsibility to ensure the safety of your internal networks and protect digital information from hackers. Although there is never a 100% guarantee your databases or website won't get hacked, there are some things you can do to reduce this possibility. Using secure servers, secure email and secure forms should be your first steps. Making sure each of your computers is equipped with an up-to-date anti-virus software is also important. This is a bit outside of our area of expertise, so talk to your webmaster or IT person to discuss your options. And if you have questions or need help with electronic waste recycling or destruction, contact BWS. If you wish to donate your old computers, we can help you with that as well. BWS has partnered with a recycling facility that securely reuses old hardware to provide computers to Baltimore City Schools.

Share this article:

Ready to get started?

Request A Quote

Our Dedication to Providing the Highest Quality Regulated Waste Services
is Shown in What Our Clients Say About Our Work

We provide an outstanding value and service to our regulated waste customers and pride ourselves on our 100% customer satisfaction with 99% customer retention ratio.

“Our office has been utilizing the services of Biomedical Waste Services, Inc. (BWS) for well over a decade. Their caring, dedicated, and professional team have made it an absolute pleasure to do business with. They are always prompt and courteous in providing whatever service we ask of them. We highly recommend them for your practice!!”

Paul R Miller, D.D.S. and Team

“Our experience with BWS has been uniformly positive. Their services are prompt, professional, and reliable. Their prices are fair and upfront, with no hidden or recurring charges. We highly recommend them as a vendor.”

ZytoGen Patient Services

“My review from 2019: Still using BWS and still think they're great! My review from 2016: We've been doing business with BWS for a few years now, and their service and pricing are great. We previously used a company who provides the same service in our area but overcharged us for years. I would definitely recommend BWS to anyone in the market for waste disposal at a great price with excellent service.”

“I have fantastic very dependable experience using BWS. I have used them weekly for the last 17 years in my dental practice. There always on the day that they're supposed to be, there's never been an issue with any of the invoices.”

Akbar Masood, D.D.S.

“BWS has been handling our biohazardous waste disposal for three years. They have always been helpful and dependable. I recommend them to all who need biohazardous waste disposal services.”

Chris Donaldson

“Been working with BWS for 10+ years. Fantastic service, always on time and polite.”

Dharani Jasthi

“Prompt, professional, and awesome business. We have worked with them for years and couldn't be happier.”

Tomicka Jackson-George, D.M.D.

“I've used BWS for several years now. Their service is great and their fees are very reasonable, making BWS a great value in hazardous waste removal.”

Louis Sachs, D.D.S.

“Professional and always on time! Great service!”

Kate Blair English

“Great option for healthcare waste management. BWS is an independent owned professional organization that is built on integrity and trust. There is no other company in the region that I'd recommend more. Most others say the right things the folks at BWS do the right thing. I'll continue to recommend them.”

Dave Ryan

We are a medical practice in a new location and needed hazardous waste removal services. We have been so pleased with the level of service and professionalism on both the admin and field work end of BWS services, and their pricing is fair and flexible. We would highly recommend them to any medical practice in need of these services.

Kerry Owens, Avalon Plastic Surgery

Every staff member that I have interacted with has been very friendly. They are quick to respond to emails and do a great job.

Jamie Fleming, National Spine & Pain Centers

Excellent company. Received notification that I was on schedule, showed up as promised, and very professional service from office to driver. Excellent service!!!

Keith Roberts, Biomatrix Specialty Pharmacy

Great service! They are always responsive and ready to help. 100% recommended.

Mireia Pedragosa Marin, Synergy Research

They were responsive and quickly start services. They were also great at answering all my questions and updating on when services would start.

Rebecca Crouse, Randolph Macon Academy

We used BWS for sharps disposal at a doctor's office. I saw their bright truck in the parking lot at work which lead me to call for a quote. They responded to my inquiry quickly and thoroughly, answering all my questions. They gave me pricing that was very reasonable, and lower than many companies I checked. They were a pleasure to communicate with via phone and email, no phone tag! The truck arrived the day and time we planned. The driver was very personable and easy to communicate with. The people I interacted with seem to understand the value of customer service. I would highly recommend them. They will take care of you.

Melissa C, Patriot Chiropractic

Excellent, professional service and very reasonable price on medical waste removal. Danielle was fantastic to work with - thanks Danielle!

Dr. Rosario Ignacio

Reliable and affordable

Dr. Thomas Lutz, Odenton Family Dentistry

I've used BWS for several years now. Their service is great and their fees are very reasonable, making BWS a great value in hazardous waste removal. Over the 20+ years that I have used them the scope of their services has increased as well as making documentation of their service easier to use!

Dr. Louis Sachs, DDS

I ran a dental charity for many years, organizing huge clinics to treat those in need. BWS donated their waste disposal services for every clinic for many years, and they continue to do so to this day. This is always a huge job, and they are always reliable, dedicated, and fun to work with. They know what it means to give back.

Eric B.

Great service & professional reps

Brenda Shah

Stay connected - Be the first to know!