Your practice has researched how long to retain medical records, imaging scans, patient correspondence and tax forms. But have you ever wondered how long should providers keep EOBs? The explanation of benefits you receive are a valuable part of your files, but many practices wonder if it’s essential to hang on to them for long at all.
Read on to get a feel for how long providers should keep EOBs, and get a handle on how you can enforce these rules at your practice.
Are EOBs Part of the Medical Record?
When determining how long you must keep EOBs, one important question is evaluating whether these documents are considered part of the medical record. In reality, they are not part of the patient’s clinical care plan, and are not specifically considered a medical record. They are, however, part of the patient’s financial record, as well as part of your practice’s financial records.
This means that if your practice is ever audited, patient EOBs are among the documents that the IRS or other auditing entity will want to see. If a patient ever comes to you asking about their financial record and whether they’re owed a refund, you must also be armed with the information necessary to provide them with details about how much you collected for their services and where those collections came from.
How Long Do You Retain Accounts Payable Files?
To pinpoint how long you should keep your EOBs, first investigate how long you’re keeping your other accounts payable files. Any information in your records that would support your ledgers in the face of an IRS or other audit would fall under the accounts payable umbrella, and would include EOBs. However long you’re keeping those documents (typically between seven and 10 years) is how long you should hang on to your patients’ EOBs.
Keep in mind, however, that other entities may have their own rules about EOB retention. For instance, if state, county or local laws have regulations about EOB (or accounts payable) record retention, you should follow those guidelines explicitly.
Without clear guidance, many practices retain EOBs for 10 full years to err on the side of caution. If you have any confusion about how long you should be keeping these records, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney who’s well versed in financial record laws and medical practice record regulations. They can tailor specific advice based on your practice’s location, size, and individual specifics.
Once you have a policy in place, share it with the entire practice and put it in writing as part of your HR and finance manual so everyone at your office knows exactly how long you expect these records to be retained, how they should be stored and where they must be to remain accessible to staff members who might need them.
If you get rid of medical records too soon or destroy them in a noncompliant way, you could face thousands in penalties and fines. Let attorneys Daphne Kackloudis, Esq. and Ashley Watson, Esq. help you avoid issues during their 60-minute webinar, Avoid Medical Record Destruction Mistakes and $50,000 Fines. Register right away!
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