The treatment and rehabilitation of patients have been made easier by the continuous and significant advancements in healthcare technology. The industry is creating alarming amounts of electronic waste as medical equipment gets more obsolete.

Most of this e-waste goes to landfills, but it is most likely that they are not aware of where it went. Toxic chemicals can have very negative effects on the environment and the local community. Healthcare facilities are also required to erase digitally stored patient data and comply with legal requirements. The irresponsible disposal or treatment of e-waste within the medical field can have devastating and far-reaching effects.

This article will address the top three concerns regarding e-waste in healthcare. Let’s first examine e-waste within the healthcare industry.

What’s Considered E-waste For Healthcare?

E-waste, which is an acronym for electronic waste, refers to printers, phones, servers, hard drives, and other devices. E-waste can also be used in the healthcare industry to refer to computers, laboratory analyzers, microscopes, and other medical devices such as electrocardiograms and spectrophotometers. 

This type of healthcare waste is typically produced by hospitals, poisonology laboratories, treatment centers, physician’s offices, urgent care facilities, and cosmetic surgery clinics. Biomedical electronic equipment can be considered hazardous material when it is disposed of. It contains potentially harmful substances such as heavy metals. Responsible disposal is therefore imperative.

Top Concerns Regarding E-waste Within The Healthcare Industry

Let’s now take a look at three main concerns regarding e-waste within the healthcare industry:

1. Compliance With HIPAA

Most electronic devices used in medical clinics are capable of storing data. This includes sensitive and private information about individuals’ health records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to ensure that health data security and confidentiality are maintained at all times. This includes after disposal of data-storing technologies.

HIPAA demands that data on any device, hard drive or computer, must be completely destroyed or shred.

2. Data Security

Data security is an important aspect of managing e-waste, in addition to complying with the HIPAA. If your healthcare facility wants to comply with the HIPAA, as well as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), FACTA [Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act], and GLBA [The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act], a professional hard drive destruction service will be essential.

You must ensure that your confidential information and security breaches are prevented by ensuring that you destroy all electronic devices before they are recycled or disposed of.

3. E-waste Has Negative Environmental And Health Consequences.

Hazardous materials and chemicals can be found in electronic medical equipment, including phones and computers, that can cause havoc on the environment and human health.

The following are some of the potentially hazardous materials found in biomedical electronic equipment:

  • MRI magnets can detect copper and titanium-niobium
  • Lead is used in CRT monitors and other devices
  • Mercury is used in LCDs
  • Cadmium is used in batteries and plastics. It also resists corrosion.
  • PVC (chlorinated plastics) is used in wiring and cables
  • Brominated flame retardants are used in circuit boards and computer housings.

A staggering 70% of e-waste ends in an unreported or unknown place – most likely in a landfill. These toxic substances can end up in groundwater and cause damage to local ecosystems. They can also contaminate food and pose a threat to human health. 

Take Care Of Your Medical Electronic Waste

You can meet your HIPAA obligations, protect your patients’ data, and protect the environment and human health from the negative effects of e-waste disposal by working with a certified professional.

This post was written by Steven Elia Co-Founder and Recycling Director at eCycle Florida. eCycle Florida is a R2 Certified electronics recycling company in the state of Florida. Our processes and procedures are dedicated to the proper destruction and recycling of your electronics. eCycle Florida is your go-to when looking for an electronic recycling center in Tampa. To learn more click here!