Okay, so some people like their privacy…nothing wrong with that. There is some personal information that we like to keep to ourselves or at least have a choice in whether or not to share with someone else. The information stored on used imaging equipment could be anything from our birth date, our social security number, or maybe even an x-ray image with our name and a picture of one of our limbs broken in two. Who knows? HIPPA IT compliance is of the utmost importance when selling your used imaging equipment.
Given our litigious social climate and regulations imposed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), one thing is certain: hospitals and imaging centers do not want to be the reason that your personal information is somehow shared with someone else without your permission. So what happens to that information when the CT scanner or x-ray room that photographed it is sold to a new owner?
Generally, steps are taken to have patient information deleted from the used imaging equipment before they hand it over to the buyer. But, a question many buyers forget to ask is: Who are sellers hiring to wipe this delicate information off the system, and do they know how?
Bring in the IT specialist!
It has been my experience in working with our IT department that we think they can do just about anything. If you can fix a computer then they can rule the world! Well, not really, but you get the picture.
Here are two stories concerning IT specialists who did not know how to deal with imaging equipment specifically. Unfortunately, these aren’t your typical fairy tales… there are no happy endings here. :-(
Story #1- a little mess up
We recently purchased a piece of equipment from a site that hired an IT specialist to come in and wipe the patient data from the unit. He succeeded in wiping the information off the unit, but also corrupted the imaging software in the process. Most medical imaging units won’t run without their OEM-specific software. Our deinstalling engineer now had to sink in extra billable hours to perform a software reload on the system. Now, in addition to time, money had also been wasted. Dark days, I tell you…dark days.
Story #2- a BIG mess up!
Another site had their own IT person wipe the data from their unit. Regretfully, instead of wiping just the patient data, they decided to wipe the entire hard drive; patient data, OEM software and, since the unit was a bone densitometer using a PC as its primary computer, all of the general operating software and the office application suite. The site had to start completely from scratch and reload all of the disks onto the computer (the ones they had anyway). Missing disks had to be ordered from the OEM and from Microsoft. While we were not privy to the final software bill, we know the cost of those disks can range from $200-$8,000 depending on the unit. Needless to say, I am not sure if Mr. IT still has a job.
The moral is...
Make sure that the person you are having perform this delicate service for you knows what they are doing when it comes to imaging equipment or you could be in a world of hurt. Think twice before calling in any IT specialist to do this work. Don’t put their head on the chopping block by presuming their computer expertise extends into the medical imaging field.
Not all computers are alike. Ask them if they have experience with imaging operating software. If not, call the OEM tech support line. Depending on the company, they will often offer to walk your IT specialist through the process. If your manufacturer doesn’t offer that support, give us a call and we will see what we can do to help. Your patients’ privacy is important and, not to put too fine a point on the issue, it’s also important for your site to not violate federal laws by shipping a unit with sensitive information saved to it.
As buyers and sellers of medical imaging equipment we are in this together. Let’s help keep each other on good terms with HHS!
You might also be interested in...