Today, there is a lot of movement in the healthcare industry with hospitals and practices being merged or acquired. Not to mention there was a ‘rush’ by practices to select EMR’s that were ‘certified’ for Meaningful Use (MU) several years ago.
With those transactions there has been a recent trend by clinical organizations to change EMR’s, regardless if it is by choice or ‘forced’ due to a merger or acquisition. The result is a glut of clinical organizations operating two EMR’s. Why is this?
The short answer is regulations. In fact, there are regulations that require physicians to have available patient chart information for up to 20 years!
Each Covered Entity and Business Associate is bound by the laws of the state in which they practice as to how long the medical records have to be retained. The states´ retention periods can vary considerably depending on the nature of the records and to whom they belong. A couple of examples:
- In Florida, physicians must maintain medical records for five years after the last patient contact, whereas hospitals must maintain them for seven years.
- In Nevada, healthcare providers are required to maintain medical records for a minimum of five years, or – in the case of a minor – until the patient is twenty-three years of age.
- In North Carolina, hospitals must maintain patients´ records for eleven years from the date of discharge, and records relating to minors must be retained until the patient is thirty.
The following link, https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/appa7-1.pdf, is from HealthIT.gov and provides the record retention requirements for each state. Laws for retention can be modified by new state legislation so you should check regularly to make sure your retention policy meets the requirements of your state.
As noted, each state has its own requirements for medical records retention, although there are no HIPAA retention requirements for medical records.
HIPAA does require that a physician provide the patient or the patient’s representative with a copy of the requested medical record in 30 days. However, if the medical records are not maintained or are not accessible on-site, then a physician has 60 days to provide the records. A physician may extend the time for production once—for an additional 30 days by providing the requestor with a written statement of the reason(s) for the delay and the date by which the physician will produce the records.
In the case of a medical emergency or Social Security claims, records should be provided as soon as possible. Physicians not covered by HIPAA must produce medical records in a “timely manner.” The Board has interpreted “timely manner” as being two to three weeks.