Significant and continual advancements in healthcare technology have enhanced the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients. However, as medical equipment becomes obsolete at a faster rate, the industry is producing alarming quantities of electronic waste.
The majority of this e-waste is delivered to an unknown location, most likely landfills. From there, toxic chemicals can have extremely detrimental effects on the local environment and community. Further, healthcare facilities have legal obligations that require them to effectively erase and destroy digitally-stored patient data.
In short, the irresponsible disposal of e-waste in the medical field can have severe, far-reaching consequences.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top three concerns about e-waste in the healthcare industry. First, let’s examine e-waste in the healthcare industry in more detail.
What is considered e-waste in healthcare?
E-waste – which stands for electronic waste – includes things like printers, cellphones, servers, hard drives, and other devices. In the healthcare industry, e-waste may also refer to computers, lab analyzers, and microscopes as well as more specialized medical devices: electrocardiograms, sphygmomanometers, and spectrophotometers, to name a few.
Typically, this type of healthcare e-waste is produced by hospitals, toxicology laboratories, treatment centers, physician’s offices, urgent care facilities, cosmetic surgery clinics, dental offices, and other medical facilities.
When disposed of, biomedical electronic equipment is considered a hazardous material, because it contains potentially dangerous substances like heavy metals – and that’s just one reason why responsible disposal is imperative.
Three top concerns about e-waste in the healthcare industry
Now, let’s take a look at the top three concerns about e-waste in the healthcare industry.
1. HIPAA compliance
The majority of electronics used in medical clinics store data, and not just any data, but sensitive, private information about individual health records. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), healthcare providers are obliged to maintain health data confidentiality and security at all times – and this includes after the disposal of data-storing technology.
The HIPAA requires that any data stored on a device, whether that be a computer or hard drive, is not just erased, but completely destroyed or shredded.
2. Data security
In line with complying to the HIPAA, data security is an essential factor to consider when managing e-waste. A high-quality, professional hard drive destruction service is critical if your healthcare facility is to obey not only the HIPAA, but also PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), FACTA (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), and GLBA (The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act) laws.
To prevent identity theft and other security breaches, you must verify that all confidential or protected information is securely – and responsibly – destroyed before your old electronics are disposed of or recycled.
3. Environmental and health impacts of e-waste
Electronic medical equipment – including the basics like computers and phones – contain hazardous materials and chemicals that, if not properly disposed of, can wreak havoc on the natural environment and human health.
Biomedical electronic equipment contains a range of potentially dangerous materials, such as:
- Copper and titanium-niobium from MRI magnets
- Lead, used in CRT monitors and other devices
- Mercury, used in LCDs
- Cadmium, used in batteries, plastics, resistors, and CRTs
- Chlorinated plastics (PVC), used in cables and wiring
- Brominated flame retardants, used in computer housing and circuit boards
In addition, a staggering 70 percent of e-waste ends up in an unreported or unknown location – most likely, in a landfill. Once in a landfill, these toxic substances can leach into groundwater, impacting local ecosystems, contaminating food, and even threatening human health.
Dispose of your medical e-waste responsibly
Meet your HIPAA obligation, protect your patient’s data, and protect the environment – and human health – from the negative impacts of e-waste by working with a professional, certified e-waste disposal company.
Mayer Metals Corporation will provide you with the most competitive rates and provide you with peace of mind that you are disposing of your organization’s electronic waste safely and responsibly. All electronic waste is recycled in an R2 Certified facility. All hard drives are destroyed and Certificates of Destruction in compliance with Department of Defense (DoD) security standards are provided. For more information about electronic recycling check out our Ultimate Guide To Corporate Electronic Recycling.