Most healthcare organizations are aware that records must be retained for HIPAA purposes for six years from the date of its creation or the date it was last in effect. What may be less commonly known, however, is that each state determines the laws for its jurisdiction. The length of time states require records to be retained varies from as short as five years to as long as ten. For states requiring less than six years, health organizations must still retain HIPAA information for six years.
A variety of factors impact medical record retention regulations. They vary depending on the type of patient with different rules for adults and minors. For patients under 18, the records must be retained for a specified length of time after the age of majority. Some states, such as Oklahoma and New York, have requirements for records of deceased patients as well. Certain states also have differing laws for medical practices and hospitals. It is important to note that accrediting agencies also have separate regulations that health organizations should understand and follow.
To find the medical record retention regulations for your state, consult this government table provided by HealthIT.gov which details the conditions for record retention. Since the laws can be modified by the state legislature, check regularly to make sure that new legislation is not being considered on record retention. If you have questions, refer to the HealthIT.gov website for local representatives and common questions.
When determining how to comply with state regulations, be sure to carefully consider your strategy for retaining the data. Some retention options include:
- maintaining the legacy system (which can be costly)
- EHR data conversion – converting the data into your go-forward system (which can be costly and complex)
- printing/scanning the records (which is labor intensive)
- migrating and storing discrete data elements in an electronic data archive
Many health organizations choose archiving because of the long term return on investment and ease of retrieving the records. Go here to learn more about EMR archiving and to get tips on creating a medical record retention policy for your healthcare organization.