Several weeks ago, a customer called and asked, “How long should we keep our patients’ medical records before destroying them?” Over the years, I’ve heard a variety of answers to this question, and it never seemed that complicated. Boy, was I wrong.
Of course, the answer can’t be simple or definitive. Basically, how long you keep your medical records depends on where your practice is located, what programs your patients take part in, and what agency you must comply with. That means you must follow both state and federal minimum retention lengths, HIPAA, Medicare, provider licensing laws, malpractice, and so on.
I reached out to a few of our national experts to get their thoughts. Everyone I spoke with said that at the very minimum you should determine the longest time period that applies to your patient population and practice, and stick with that for all of your records. That way, you have a standard rule that you apply across the board, and you’re sure to remain compliant with all applicable rules and regulations.
Ultimately, the answer ended up being, “it depends.” The only way to confidently protect yourself and your practice from legal and financial penalties is to establish and implement a plan maintaining, storing and destroying your patient records.
After getting this question — and hearing the answer — we decided to conduct an online training session on July. 13 at 1 p.m. ET with healthcare attorney, Wayne Miller, Esq. — Head Off Medical Records Retention/Destruction Violation. If you are unable to attend the live session, it will be recorded and available in MP4 and CD formats. I hope it helps.