Securely Storing Paper Charts in the Age of EHR

February 19, 2016  American Health Information Management Association

Paper charts in EHR era

A plan for securely storing medical records is paramount as more practices move from paper patient charts to electronic health records (EHR).

While individual states generally govern how long medical records should be retained — HIPAA rules require a Medicare Fee-For-Service provider to retain required documentation for six years from the date of its creation or the date when it last was in effect, whichever is later. CMS requires that providers submitting cost reports retain all patient records for at least five years after the closure of the cost report. And if you’re a Medicare managed care program provider, CMS requires that you retain the patient records for 10 years.

Once the retention schedule has been determined, practice’s should identify active and inactive records. “Active” means that the records are consulted or used on a routine basis. Routine functions may include activities such as release of information requests, revenue integrity audits, or quality reviews.

“Inactive” means that the records are used rarely but must be retained for reference or to meet the full retention requirement. Inactive records usually involve a patient who has not sought treatment for a period of time or one who completed his or her course of treatment.

Defining active and inactive records also may depend on other issues such as physical file space, the amount of research done, and availability of off-site storage. For example, because of limited file space, a practice may determine that records are active for a period of one year from the discharge date. After one year, the record is moved to off-site storage or scanned to a DVD and considered inactive. In this instance, inactive does not mean that the record can be destroyed because the record has not yet met its full retention requirement.

For assistance with any of your medical record storage needs as you move from paper patient charts to electronic health records (EHR), talk to a representative at Continuum Buying Alliance at: 855.767.1636.