by Kim C. Stanger, Holland & Hart LLP
I am often asked how long a practice must maintain medical records. The answer depends on the type of provider you are and your risk tolerance. Providers should generally consider the following in establishing their record retention policies:
1. Patient care. The primary consideration should be patient care. Some practices (e.g., oncology) may want to retain medical records longer than the relevant regulatory requirement or statute of limitations period because the records may be important to future patient care. If your electronic records program allows, you may want to retain the records permanently.
2. Statutory or Regulatory Requirements. State and federal regulations require hospitals and certain other institutional providers to maintain medical records for specified periods, but those laws usually do not apply directly to physicians or physician groups. There are numerous guides online. For example, HealthIT.gov published a 50-state survey of record retention requirements at http://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/appa7-1.pdf. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare published a helpful but incomplete summary of federal record retention regulations, which may be accessed at http://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Portals/0/Medical/LicensingCertification/RecordRetentionReqs.pdf. CMS published a MedLearn article on record retention at https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNMattersArticles/downloads/SE1022.pdf. AHIMA is usually a good source for online guidance about record retention laws and regulations. Continue reading