Does HIPAA Apply to Medical Waste?

Hipaa and medical waste

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is primarily designed to enforce security of patient information by setting standards for protecting health information and holding the healthcare industry accountable for security.

Enacted in 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services states that according to HIPAA, covered entities are required to implement all safeguards needed to protect the privacy of protected health information (PHI) in any form in order to limit incidental and avoid prohibited uses or disclosures of PHI—including during disposal.

To learn more about HIPAA and how it applies to medical waste, watch the video or read the transcript below.

Video Transcription

HIPAA Noncompliance Fines

HIPAA violations are more than a slap on the wrist, In every case, you can expect financial consequences, and depending on the type it can range upwards of 7 digits.

Violation Type Minimum Penalty Maximum Penalty
Unknowing $100 per violation, max $25,000 annually $50,000 per violation, max $1.5 million annually
Reasonable Cause $1,000 per violation, max $100,000 annually $50,000 per violation, max $1.5 million annually
Willful Neglect $10,000 per violation, max $250,000 annually $50,000 per violation, max $1.5 million annually
Willful Neglect—Uncorrected $50,000 per violation, max $$1,000,000 annually $50,000 per violation, max $1.5 million annually

Where HIPAA Applies Besides Patient Paperwork

The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires safeguards to be taken to protect PHI in any form.

Although paper and electronic medical records hold the majority of information, there’s still PHI on medical waste like IV bags or specimen cups as well.

Types of Medical Waste Regulated by HIPAA

There’s a wide range of medical waste types that have PHI and are regulated by HIPAA, such as:

  • Blood collection vessels
  • Empty IV bags & tubing
  • All sharps
  • All dried blood
  • Used bandages
  • Discarded gloves
  • Specimen cups
  • Medications

How to Safely Dispose Medical Waste

When it comes to HIPAA-compliant waste disposal, there are multiple ways for handling medical waste, and the right method depends on the type of waste being disposed.

Disposing Used Sharps

Sharps are used in a variety of places and for a variety of reasons, making them one of the most common medical waste types.

Sharps need to be separated out and disposed in separate containers at facilities like”

  • Physician Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Rehabilitation Facilities
  • Urgent Care Facilities
  • Residential Homes
  • Nursing Homes

Using Red Bags for Biohazardous Waste

Red bags are used specifically for disposing biohazardous waste that contains any potentially infectious substances like blood.

Common examples of biohazardous waste include:

  • Bandages, gloves, gauze, & gowns
  • Discarded surgical equipment
  • Items with dried blood and fluids
  • Blood-soaked materials
  • Discarded vaccines
  • Pathological waste
  • Cytotoxic waste

Using Yellow Containers for Trace Chemotherapeutic Waste

Yellow waste containers are designated for trace chemotherapeutic waste that’s considered “RCRA empty” according to EPA standards.

For waste to be “RCRA empty”, the materials need to be completely emptied and have less than 3% of their original volume remaining. Common types include:

  • Empty ampules & vials
  • Empty IV bags & tubing
  • Empty syringes & needles
  • Gowns, gloves, & aprons
  • Used wipes & packaging

Using Black Containers for Bulk Chemotherapeutic Waste

While yellow containers are used for trace chemotherapeutic waste, black ones are used for the waste that’s not considered “RCRA empty”.

Yellow Bin and Black Bin Medical WasteOtherwise known as “bulk” waste, common types include:

  • Half/partially used medications
  • Partially used vials, bags, & IV tubing
  • P-listed substances & containers
  • Pathological chemo waste
  • PPE and cleaning materials

Using Blue Containers for Pharmaceutical Waste

Blue medical waste containers are designated for pharmaceutical waste that the RCRA defines as hazardous.

The RCRA’s P and U lists outline various types of pharmaceutical waste, including:

  • Warfarin
  • Nicotine
  • Lindane
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Bulk Powders
  • Expired/unused pills & injectables

Is Your Medical Waste Disposal HIPAA-Compliant?

Shred Nations has helped numerous organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the Red Cross, make sure their medical waste disposal was HIPAA-compliant. To let us help you find your best HIPAA-compliant medical waste disposal solution, give us a call at (800) 747-3365 or fill out our form for a free no-obligation quote from providers near you.

types of medical waste