Hospitals

Hospitals, beware: Thieves snatch X-ray films to cash in on silver recycling

A recent spike in commodity prices has thieves targeting hospitals’ radiology films to cash in on the silver the films contain. Knox Community Hospital in Mount Vernon, Ohio became one of the latest victims when a criminal posed as a recycling company employee before pilfering four 55-gallon drums of X-ray film, the Columbus Dispatch reported. […]

A recent spike in commodity prices has thieves targeting hospitals’ radiology films to cash in on the silver the films contain.

Knox Community Hospital in Mount Vernon, Ohio became one of the latest victims when a criminal posed as a recycling company employee before pilfering four 55-gallon drums of X-ray film, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Hospital officials figured the thief took the films to a recycling center, but weren’t sure how much the heist netted and told the police that the films were worth “thousands of dollars.”

The heist happened in October, but Knox officials apparently only learned of it recently through conversations between hospital employees and the recycling service the hospital had hired.

Last August, a similar crime happened to Arkansas’ Summit Medical Center when thieves also posed as recycling workers and made off with two 55-gallon drums of radiology film. Last year in South Carolina, police found X-rays from 38 medical facilities from Florida to North Carolina in the possession of two men who were posing as recycling company employees.

If there’s a bright spot for hospitals, it’s that X-ray film stealing isn’t as profitable as it once was. The price of silver has dropped about 25 percent this week after skyrocketing to a 31-year high of almost $49 last week.

For hospitals, the biggest problem with being victimized by X-ray-film thieves isn’t the lost money, it’s the loss of protected health information contained on the films. The films stolen from Knox contained name, date of birth and name of body part included in the X-ray. The films didn’t contain addresses or social security numbers, according to a statement from the hospital.

In the wake of the theft, Knox is reviewing its contracted services and considering options to do on-site document and film shredding.

The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) doesn’t issue any guidance or advice to members on best practices for protecting radiology films, spokeswoman Tiffany Himmelreich said. That’s in part because the OHA isn’t aware of any other radiology film thefts to member hospitals aside from the Knox incident.

“People are grasping at straws and looking for money any way they can, so this is a good reminder for hospitals and all businesses to take a look at their security procedures and make sure they’re in order,” Himmelreich said.

name, date of birth, name of body part in the X-ray