The Overlooked Basics
The Overlooked Basics
A summary of what every dental practice owner should know and implement in the day to day operations of their practice.

How To Avoid A HIPAA Violation In The Use Of An Office Copier

How To Avoid A HIPAA Violation In The Use Of An Office Copier

6/26/2014 7:30:04 AM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 2018

Protected Health Information on Photocopier Hard Drives



Many dental practices lease photocopiers and simply return the photocopier to the leasing company to replace it with the latest model.  However, most dentists are unaware that their old photocopier could subject their dental practice to substantial fines and penalties as a result of violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  An insurance company recently negotiated a settlement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services in excess of one million dollars [$1,000,000.00] over its failure to erase Protected Health Information from leased photocopier hard drives, resulting in a breach of HIPAA.


This settlement is only one example of how Protected Health Information may be electronically stored in locations that are not easily apparent, and should serve as a motivator for every dental practice to ensure that policies and procedures are in place regarding the return of photocopiers at the expiration of the lease term.   Dentists should perform a risk analysis pursuant to HIPAA guidelines to ensure that every storage location of electronic Protected Health Information has been identified, including computers, scanners, flash drives and hard drives.  Once the security risks of electronic Protected Health Information have been assessed, dentists must implement policies for the disposal of this Protected Health Information prior to the return or disposal of the equipment. 


Dentists should also ensure that each of its business associates have executed a Business Associate Agreement that requires the business associates to destroy all electronic Protected Health Information from devices before returning or discarding them.  A breach of HIPPA can result in substantial fines, penalties and even a lack of patient confidence.  By conducting a HIPAA risk analysis assessment on a regular basis, dentists can save time, money and frustration, as well as avoid reputational damage in the healthcare community. 



Stuart J. Oberman, Esq. handles a wide range of legal issues for the dental profession including practice sales, real estate transactions, lease agreements, HIPAA and OSHA compliance, board complaints, employment law, and entity formation. For questions or comments regarding this article please call (770) 554-1400 or visit

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