Does HIPAA Apply to Medical Waste?

HIPAA’s main purpose is to protect the privacy of protected health information (PHI), and although traditional medical records are typically what comes to mind, there can also be PHI in types of medical waste like:

  • Blood collection vessels
  • Medications
  • Specimen cups
  • Sharps
  • Empty IV bags & tubing

To learn more about what kinds of medical waste are covered by HIPAA, watch the video or read the transcript below.


Video Transcript

What Is HIPAA?

Enacted in 1996, HIPAA requires covered entities to implement any and all safeguards needed to protect the privacy of PHI in any form in order to limit incidental and prohibited uses or disclosures of PHI—including during disposal.

HIPAA Noncompliance Penalties

Whether accidental or intentional, HIPAA violations will always come with financial penalties—in some cases as high as 7 digits. When it comes to intentional or repeated violations, the fine may also come with handcuffs.

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

HIPAA-Compliant Medical Waste Disposal

While most PHI can be found in electronic or paper medical records, the U.S. produces 5.9 million tons of waste each year, making it just as important to safely dispose medical waste and potential PHI it contains.

All medical waste needs to be disposed, however there are multiple forms of medical waste that require specific disposal methods.

Safe Sharps Disposal

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’s Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Rehabilitation Facilities
  • Urgent Care Facilities
  • Residential Homes
  • Nursing Homes

how hippa applies to medical waste diposalRed Bag Disposal for Hazardous Waste

Red bags are designated for biohazardous waste that contains any potentially infectious substances like blood.

Common examples of biohazardous waste include:

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

Black and Yellow Containers for Chemotherapeutic Waste

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

While black is used for bulk waste, yellow containers are designated for chemo waste that’s “RCRA empty”, meaning the materials are empty and have less than 3% of their original volume remaining:

  • Used ampules and vials
  • Used IV bags & tubing
  • Used syringes and needles
  • Used medications
  • Pathological chemo waste
  • P-listed substances & containers

Blue Containers for Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste

Blue medical waste containers are designated for RCRA-defined types of hazardous pharmaceutical waste.

The RCRA uses its P and U lists to outline and different types of hazardous waste, including:

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

In Need of HIPAA-Compliant Medical Waste Disposal?

Medical Waste Pros has helped numerous healthcare organizations with their secure and compliant medical waste disposal needs. To join them and let us help you with your medical waste disposal, fill out our form or give us a call at (888) 755-6370 for a free, no-obligation quote from providers in your area.