The state Board of Medicine is investigating a York County doctor after patients' medical records, which were destined to be burned, were found at a trash container at the York County Solid Waste Authority's incinerator last month.
Though such records can't be left in such containers, burning medical records, most of which have protected and personal patient information, is one of the recommended ways to destroy them, according to federal guidelines.
The records belonged to Dr. R. Dale McCormick, who retired in November after nearly 52 years as a practicing surgeon. He most recently practiced out of York Academy of Surgery, 3251 Eastern Blvd., in Springettsbury Township.
"This is very upsetting," McCormick said Tuesday night. "I want to know how they found them (the records)."
Clean record: McCormick, an obstetrician who has an active license to practice, had a clean record throughout his career, said Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State.
"I'm very proud of that," McCormick said, confirming he was never subjected to disciplinary action during his career.
However, he now faces such action pending the outcome of an investigation by the state Board of Medicine, Ruman said.
McCormick said he's slated to meet with a state representative about the matter later this week.
He learned that the records were found a few days ago when he was contacted by the representative to arrange a meeting. He said he's concerned and puzzled by how the records fell into the wrong hands and weren't destroyed with others he took to the incinerator in Manchester Township.
Dropped off: After McCormick retired, he was left with decades worth of accumulated medical records.
Some patients picked up their records but there were still more that had to be discarded, he said.
So McCormick, with the help of another man, loaded the records onto to a trailer, covered them to ensure none fell off and took roughly seven tons of records to the incinerator over the course of three trips, he said.
With care, they dumped all of the records into Dumpster-type container, believing the records would be burned, and left.
McCormick said he's not sure how someone was able to get their hands on the private records but theorized someone pulled them from the container.
"We took all the precautions we could so somebody must have taken them out," he said. "We didn't lose anything. We were very careful of how we did it. Somebody must have taken them out."
HIPAA: The state's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly called HIPAA, does not state how medical records should be destroyed, Ruman said.
However, federal HIPAA guidelines says records can't be tossed in containers that are "accessible by the public or other unauthorized persons."
But it does list burning, along with shredding and pulverizing, as acceptable ways to destroying the documents.
HIPPA aims to protect individuals' private health information and gives patients various rights regarding that information.
The York County Solid Waste Authority does offer a service to dispose of confidential documents, such as medical records.
According to its website, one method allows someone to dump materials directly into a hopper to be destroyed.
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.