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Unsure of how to store your patients’ records? Learn about minimum storage requirements and the advantages of best practices for medical practitioners.
Keeping your organization in compliance with regulations regarding the storing of patient medical records can be challenging. This is because the laws and recommendations vary by state, within states, and by medical practice. Although certain federal requirements, like HIPAA, exist for storing electronic medical records, there is a general lack of uniformity in the United States. While it is best to double-check regulations per state, county, and even city where the medical practice operates, there are some general recommendations for storing medical records.
Medical practitioners that want to consult individual state guidelines and minimum requirements can check here. Otherwise, hospitals are typically required to keep records of discharged patients for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years. Records for treated and discharged minors may need to be kept on file until the minor reaches legal adulthood. This threshold could vary by state, as in some the legal age is considered 18 and in others it is as high as 25. Practices consisting of doctors’ offices may only need to keep records on file for seven years, but this can vary by state law.
While patients’ medical records have traditionally been stored in paper or hard copy format, this can present several challenges. First, there is the challenge of finding enough space. There is also the challenge of maintaining the integrity of the documents, as ink and paper can degrade over time. Implementing an electronic health record system can help solve both of the challenges associated with the paper format. Many organizations seek the assistance of an IT managed service provider that can offer data backup services.
Vendors can help recommend standards for entering and storing patient information within electronic medical records. Technology consulting services can make your processes and staff more efficient, while streamlining costs associated with compliance. Ensuring compliance with state, local and federal requirements often falls under the umbrella of vendors that organizations contract with to substitute for internal IT staff.
If you decide to contract with a vendor to manage the electronic storage of your patients’ records, the vendor will likely recommend appropriate equipment and infrastructure. However, if you decide to use internal IT staff, you will want to ensure that server equipment and infrastructure are kept up to date. Aging equipment can slow down the retrieval and input of electronic medical records.
Second, you’ll need to decide to either use physical equipment or cloud services to electronically store medical records. This will depend on the size and projected growth of the practice. Using physical equipment means taking up room, implementing stricter access controls, and maintaining thorough cybersecurity practices. Choosing cloud services means trusting a managed service provider to maintain the security and integrity of your patients’ data, but freeing up room within the practice and not having to worry about the upkeep of server equipment.