Certain businesses, including medical businesses, are subject to HIPPA regulations. This means that records must be kept secure for a certain amount of time, and they must be disposed of properly when it's time to get rid of them. For medical facilities, there may be several different rules, rather than one set rule that states you must keep documents for a certain number of years.
Medical Document Retention for North Carolina
Like medical waste disposal, each state has its own rules for disposing of medical records. North Carolina has no statute or regulation that outlines a specific amount of time that medical facilities must hold medical records; however, the state is subject to certain federal rules regarding medical document retention. The one exception to this is that if an office is registered as an ambulatory surgical facility, records must be kept for at least 20 years.
HIPPA regulations state that records must be kept for at least six years. Medicare and Medicaid require that medical facilities keep records for at least seven years. So that you don't mistakenly shred records that should not be disposed of, you should keep all records for at least seven years.
Medical facilities should know what the statute of limitations is for bringing a medical malpractice suit so that records may be kept until the time has passed when a lawsuit may be served on the facility. In some cases, this could be up to 10 years from the last time you saw the patient. And, records for minors have different medical retention time frames. If you are not sure whether you should be calling Carolina Shred to dispose of certain records, speak to your attorney about retention.
North Carolina Medical Board Statement
In addition to federal regulations, the North Carolina Medical Board released a statement regarding the destruction of medical documents. It recommends keeping some records as a permanent part of a patient's record, such as chemotherapy records, immunization records and operative notes. The board also recommends giving the patient an opportunity to claim his or her records or to have them forwarded to another physician.
When It's Time to Destroy Medical Records
If possible, it's a good idea to give previous patients some form of notice that you are going to destroy their old medical records. Send more than one letter to the last known address. If that does not garner a response, then you may want to publish a notice in the local newspaper. You should also check with your medical malpractice insurance carrier about destroying records in cases where you do not receive a response from the patient.
Once you do decide to destroy the records, they should be shredded by a third party professional shredder, such as Carolina Shred, who is able to provide security for the documents while they are not in your control.
Contact Carolina Shred
Because a medical facility has many patient records that may need to be shredded at any time, the medical facility should arrange for regular document pickups for medical records, digital media and old x-ray films. Keep all records secure until the pickup date. We will even provide boxes for the facility to use for transporting sensitive material.
In some cases, you may need proof that you properly destroyed records. Carolina Shred provides a certificate of destruction for documents that were destroyed at our facility so that you have proof you have complied with HIPPA laws and other privacy laws. Contact us for to shred your medical records.