Retaining medical records for even one patient for the required amount of time is really confusing because there are so many laws you need to follow. keep medical records.
But you must keep medical records long enough for all of your patients to protect yourself against hefty FCA violations (up to $50,000 a piece!) and other compliance penalties.
Realize Fed Recently Upped How Long to Keep Records
The time frame for retaining medical records isn’t based on a single standard, but rather on numerous compliance variables. Until last year, most medical records policies specified that records should be retained for at least six years to be in line with HIPAA guidelines, or longer depending on your state law. Recent changes recommend that you revise your policies to retain all medical records for at least ten years to better protect yourself and your practice from any possible False Claims Act (FCA) violations.
Why this matters: Medical records are powerful evidence in defending your practice against FCA violations. You need to make sure you have complete records, though, because you won’t have much of an argument if they aren’t available.
Keep Medical Records Per Longest Requirement
Medical record retention is complicated because there’s no single standard for how long you must retain medical records. Instead, there are a number of different requirements to which you must adhere, including:
- State law. Most states have medical record retention laws that range from 5 to 10 years, but some are much longer. There also might be different requirements for individual practitioners vs. institutions, and you must consider the statutes of limitations for medical malpractice claims and worker’s compensation claims for your state.
- False Claims Act. False Claims Act violations may be brought up to ten years after the incident. Medical records can prove to be a powerful tool in defending against alleged FCA violations. Proper documentation can support medical necessity for claims submitted to Medicare for payment, but if the records no longer exist, your argument against a violation is much weaker.
- Accreditation requirements. Medicare Conditions of Participation and the Joint Commission have different time frames that they require you to retain, access, and retrieve patient medical records upon request.
- Special populations. Some retention requirements are governed by other regulations such as behavioral health, research patients, and minors. For example, the Food and Drug Administration requires research records pertaining to cancer patients be maintained for 30 years, and many states require that you retain minor’s records between five and ten years past the age of majority (usually 18), meaning you need to hold onto the records until the patient is between 23 and 28.
Bottom line: You need to follow the most restrictive requirement, or whichever one has the longest timeframe.
Implement Record Retention Schedule
Records must be retained in a way that is secure and makes retrieval by the provider as easy as possible. Your practice should have a record retention schedule that ensures patient health information is available for continued patient care, legal requirements, research, education, and other legitimate uses of the organization. Your retention schedule should include:
- Guidelines that specify what information is kept, the retention time frame, and the storage medium on which it will be maintained (e.g., paper, microfilm, optical disk, magnetic tape).
- Clear destruction policies and procedures with appropriate destruction methods for each medium on which information is maintained.
Lots of practices have faced real financial losses from violating medical records retention and destruction laws. The good news is medical records experts and healthcare attorneys, Daphne Kackloudis, JD and Ashley Watson, JD, can help. During their online training session, “Medical Records Retention & Destruction Rule Changes,” you’ll get more practical medical records retention strategies so you can avoid violations and their accompanying massive fines. keep medical records.
Medical Records Resources For Your Practice
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