Facebook Pixel

How Long Should I Keep Patients’ Medical Records On File?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Medical offices have hundreds and hundreds of patient records. Even in a digital age where more records are stored online each year, the storage needs can get out of hand very quickly. What do you do with all of this paperwork? How do you know when it’s okay to get rid of old documents? Medical practices are careful to keep detailed patient records and don’t want to get in trouble by getting rid of them sooner than they should.

When Can Medical Offices Destroy Records?

The basic guidelines for destroying medical records are as follows:

  • Adult patients: 10 years from the date of the last patient appointment
  • Minor patients: 28 years from birth date
  • Deceased patients: Five years from death date

Medical records consist of all written information pertaining to patient care including, but not limited to, health care provider notes, nurse notes, medication lists and diagnostic testing. If you receive medical records from another provider, you should adhere to the same guidelines for destroying the records. For the retention guidelines for patient billing documentation, refer to your state and federal income tax requirements.

If your practice is in the midst of any sort of civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding, hold onto the records until the proceeding has been resolved. Without these records, it is difficult, if not impossible, for someone to defend a case.

Keep in mind that medical record retention laws and regulations may differ slightly from one state to the next. Some states also allow for paper records to be transferred to electronic form (i.e. scanned) to cut down on paper storage.

Create A Record Retention Schedule

Established a retention schedule for your medical practice in writing. You should detail what information you keep, how long you keep it, and what storage medium you’re using. Make sure to include provisions for automatic transfer of old, inactive records and how and where the medical records will be destroyed.

How To Dispose Of Medical Records

Once the appropriate length of time has passed for retaining patient records, it is imperative that they are destroyed properly. The last thing you want is for these documents to get into the wrong hands. For most medical offices, the task of destroying their paperwork is overwhelming. If you find yourself in this situation, consider outsourcing destruction services to a professional team. You’ll free up your staff for more important tasks, and you’ll have a peace of mind knowing that the job gets done the right way.

UCI is a full-service copier company serving the greater Amarillo area. We offer a range of copier, document, and managed services for businesses of all sizes with document destruction services available in Amarillo and Lubbock. To learn more about our services, contact us.