Long Do We Keep Medical Records?
from Physician Practice
Link to original article
Q: How long do we need to keep medical charts?
A: Federal and state statutes and regulations as well as risk-management and
ethical concerns determine the amount of time to retain patient records.
Patient records are the written proof of your medical care and, thus, the best
defense in any malpractice or other legal or administrative actions filed
against you or your practice.
At a minimum, store patient records for the duration of your state’s statute of
limitations. (Your state medical board should be able to help.)
If your state extends the statute of limitations for minors and persons who are
incompetent, then you may need to permanently retain those records. Also,
determine whether or not your state follows the “discovery rule” for filing
malpractice cases. In states that follow this rule, the statute of limitations
for plaintiffs to take action begins when they knew or should have known of the
alleged malpractice. That rule extends even further the length of time that you
must retain patient records.
Hang onto any records related to legal actions in which you have been named as a
defendant or in which you think you may be called as a witness. Keep those
records until the conclusion of the case and all applicable appeals have been
Don’t overlook other legal obligations regarding patient record retention.
Medicare records must be maintained for a minimum of four years. Depending on
the type of patient, Medicare may require an even longer retention period.
Review your applicable third-party payer agreements to see what your
contractual obligations are to maintain records of their insured patients.