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Get Serious About Paper Record Destruction, by Kevin Mead

How serious are you about your document destruction processes? There are steps that you can take that ensure protection from liability and embarrassment after the records are tagged for disposal. Merely saying "we shred our old records" and "we have a certificate of destruction" is an inadequate defense when things have gone wrong. Even though a record may be of no use to you and may have met all of its business needs, it remains your responsibility. Your duty of care over records extends from the time of their creation to the time of their ultimate destruction, no matter whose hands the documents or records pass into. Therefore, the controls that you establish must be capable of ensuring that risk is addressed at all stages of a record's life.

Taking Control
A strong system of security is one with centralized control over all records at all times. The owner assumes direct physical responsibility for the destruction of the records. Yet, in many instances, this is impractical. First, HIM professionals are educated in the efficient storage, indexing, and availability of records. Secure destruction may not be their first priority. Second, the financial investment in secure records disposal can be considerable. In all but the largest and most active institutions, these assets will likely remain idle for long time periods. If you choose to outsource your destruction process, make sure that the vendor has the processes in place to ensure record protection to your satisfaction.

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Mead, Kevin. "Get Serious About Paper Record Destruction." Journal of AHIMA 73, no.5 (2002): 58, 60.

Adapted and reprinted with permission from the American Health Information Management Association. Copyright © 2002 by the American Health Information Management Association. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced, reprinted, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the association.