MRA Thought of the Day – Do You Maintain Medical Records Beyond Twenty Years?

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Kathy Gordon, RHIA, Vice President of Release of Information

Kathy Gordon, RHIA, Vice President of Release of Information

Do You Maintain Medical Records Beyond Twenty Years? If so, Read On.

According to Massachusetts law, hospitals are required to retain medical records for twenty years. If an organization chooses to maintain their records beyond the retention period, they are obligated under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, to produce the record upon request no later than 60 days regardless of when the patient was treated.

A Case of Missing Microfilm

A patient requested a copy of his medical record for treatment received over twenty years ago. According to the patient’s visit history, the date of treatment was March, 1989. The computer tracking system was accessed to determine the location of the medical record: microfilm or at an outside storage facility. The system indicated the record was on microfilm, but the roll and frame numbers were not listed. Upon further investigation, it was found that the record had never actually been microfilmed but was signed out to the microfilm company just the same. After a considerable amount of time and energy was spent trying to locate this particular medical record, it was noted that several charts originally signed out to be microfilmed were still in hard copy and had recently been sent to an outside storage facility. However, the new location of the records was not noted in the record tracking system.

Word to Retainers Among Us

Unless your organization is able to maintain the integrity of the record and have a failsafe method for producing it when requested, you may want to consider having a destruction policy in place once record life exceeds your state retention laws. What are your thoughts?

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