HIPAA Legislation Raises Privacy, Security Issues for Mail Managers

In April 14, 2007, congress approved additional patient privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The new legislation was developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), establishing standards that provide patients with increased access to their medical records and more control over how their personal health information is used and diiTraceosed. It effects virtually every organization with employees.

Mail centers are becoming important links in addressing the compliance issues raised by the new HIPAA legislation. The responsibility to protect and control confidential information has become a critical point of liability. Companies like Charnstrom, Hamilton Sorter, Secure Mailing Systems, and Signode have introduced new products that are worth considering. These products can help secure the privacy and integrity of incoming packages and messenger deliveries during transit. In addition, some products can be used to secure packages as they are staged prior to deliveries.

Our clients, in the medical, insurance and health industries have responded to the new legislation by adopting new mail handling policies and using new, inexpensive methods and equipment. The products that have received the greatest interest include (a) secured pouches for distributing mail, (b) lockable mail bins, (c) secured mail carts and (d) digital scanning technology. Even if your organization is not in the health and insurance business, you may have responsibilities to protect the privacy of mail and other documents you handle.

Long Solid Metal Cart With Locking Top

Locking Canvas Cart Cover

 Front Loading Cabinet with 32 Mailboxes

Products We Suggest to Address HIPAA Compliance

  • Secure pouches from Secure Mailing Systems (SMS/Secure Mailing Systems) are inexpensive but they provide both security and cost savings. Pouches are available in virtually any size, material and color. They are reusable, lockable and can be color-coded. Clients have been using pouches for branch deliveries for many years but many have only begun to see the benefits of such pouches for building-to-building and campus deliveries. New pouches are available that can be incorporated directly into sort bins, reducing the need to handle packages when staging for deliveries.
  • Securing Mail Carts: a new idea that has really taken hold and proved quite beneficial. Mail carts are usually left exposed when making deliveries. Concerned clients have used two strategies to secure the contents of carts: Lockable, mail covers are inexpensive and can even protect packages during campus deliveries in poor weather. Fully enclosed mail carts, like the one shown above from Charnstrom provide the greatest security and are a very good, long-term investment. We offer all Charnstrom products at discounted prices from their published catalog.
  • Lockable Mail Boxes, Sorters and Drop Boxes: Satellite mail centers are used as points of delivery for departments or as predefined locations on a floor. In order to meet HIPAA guidelines, these sorters can be configured with lockable bins or plexiglass doors. These mail sorters can be keyed individually or ganged for groups of recipients. Sizes are available to accommodate letter, legal and oversize material. Mail boxes are also available in brass and aluminum, installed on a mail console or recessed in a wall.
  • Electronic Delivery of Incoming Mail: The “Scan & Deliver” concept has received quite a bit of attention in the last year or two. Scanning incoming documents is not a new concept and it can be used by organizations receiving standard client documents (i.e., insurance claims) or legal forms that need to be stored and processed for distribution. The strategy of scanning incoming postal material and e-mailing the documents to the appropriate recipients can provide both security and operational benefits. New studies have shown that it may be more efficient to electronically open, scan and e-mail a document than rough sort, presort and physically deliver the same item. In addition, the “Scan & Deliver” process reduces the need to physically store documents locally, provides immediate access to the information, and makes distribution more efficient and accountable. For more information on this very exciting concept, click here or drop us a line.
  • Strapping bundles of mail or packages: Bundling mail and accountable packages can be done quickly and inexpensively for transporting items securely. Datamation provides strapping equipment using high strength plastic straps or paper bands. Depending on your needs, industrial strapping is available for just about any size of material.

Conclusion:
Complying with HIPAA requirements requires careful analysis and review of all operations. The mail center can play an important role in meeting these new government guidelines using inexpensive and practical equipment and strategies. Even if you are not directly in the the medical field, you can benefit from these practices and may be able to improve operational efficiency and internal corporate privacy standards. Our systems specialist will be glad to discuss how we can help with any concepts described in this article. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.