Top Tips to Foster a HIPAA Compliant Print Environment

By: Dan Larkin
February 6, 2023

HIPAA legislation requires the secure and confidential handling of patient data. Because printers are one way to transmit patient data, they must also be managed according to HIPAA regulations.

The challenge of healthcare print environments is remaining HIPAA compliant with hundreds, if not thousands, of print devices scattered across various buildings and locations. 

Our print experts have helped healthcare organizations across the country do just that. Here is a list of our top tips to keep patient data safe…

4 Tips to Maintain HIPAA Compliance

1. Secure Print Software

When you send sensitive information to your networked printer, it will remain in the output tray until it’s picked up…along with everything else that’s being printed. Even if everyone is acting with the very best intentions, it’s all too easy for a rushed staff member to accidentally grab an additional page or two and pass it to the wrong recipient. Even innocent slip-ups like these can add up to big patient privacy problems over time, but today’s technology can solve this one fairly easily.

Secure print software only allows a printer to release a print job when a user verifies their identity at the machine either through a badge, password, or PIN, which keeps sensitive information away from prying eyes, keeps medication in the right hands, and can help lower your print costs throughout your organization. 

2. Locked Paper Trays

You keep your prescription paper in a lock box when it’s not in use. What about when it’s sitting in your printer paper tray? If the printer isn’t in a secure or monitored office, you run the risk of this paper being taken. Locked paper trays can eliminate this risk.

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) have changed the print landscape, requiring more devices spread throughout the clinic. We are seeing them more conveniently located in patient rooms and hallways. But this increased accessibility for nurses and doctors also increases the accessibility for patients and other bystanders. A simple locked tray for devices containing specialty media is essential for managing the risk associated with the convenience of more printers in convenient locations. 

3. Hard Drive Security

The documents and data sent to a printer are stored on that printer’s hard drive. In a healthcare environment, this means patient data. To protect that information, there are two important measures you should take:

  • Encrypt your printer hard drives
  • Do a full overwrite of hard drives for devices being replaced, repaired, or retired.

Unfortunately, improper disposal of printer hard drives is a repeated problem among healthcare organizations. The HIPAA Journal reported that improper disposal of electronics potentially exposed nearly 600,000 patient records in 2020 alone. 

4. Device Tracking and Management

If your organization has hundreds or thousands of print devices, this tip is perhaps the most challenging to put into practice. 

In a large print environment, devices are relocated, replaced, upgraded, and retired on a regular basis. And with each of these changes comes a series of to-dos. New devices require new software, retired devices need to be disposed of securely, computers, networks, and software need to be informed of the changes, and so on.

If the tracking and management of your print fleet are done well, maintaining compliance is a straightforward matter of following your established procedures. But this isn’t a responsibility you’ll want to give to just anyone, and it isn’t something you can ignore and expect to go away if you don’t know where to start.

Get Additional Help With HIPAA Compliance

In our experience, healthcare IT departments have other priorities that conflict with managing the print piece of the IT puzzle. At Marco, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to understand the intricacies of healthcare print environments — and the industry regulations that pertain — so your team can focus on what they do best. 

Better yet, a good provider can also save you up to 30% on your overall print costs, reduce workflow disruptions, and reduce frustration throughout your entire organization. And with Marco’s Managed Print Services, robust print security is included at no additional cost. We believe it’s just the right thing to do. 

If you need additional help meeting compliance, I have one last tip: it’s always best to reach out to a print provider before something bad happens. Not after. 

Our experts are standing by to make your next steps easier!

Talk to a Print Security Specialist

Topics: Copiers & Printers