Frequently Asked Questions

Does state or federal law set forth a specific manner in which obsolete patient records must be destroyed?


Some state boards do have specific regulations governing the manner in which medical records are destroyed. Where no specific regulations exist, the best way to dispose of records is by burning, shredding or similar protective measures. If arrangements are made with third parties or entities for the destruction of patient records, a written agreement should be obtained clearly obligating the entity to safeguard confidentiality as well as indemnifying and holding harmless you and your practice from any breach of confidentiality for which they are responsible. Some state regulations require you to witness records destruction that is performed by a third party. Before destroying records, confirm the timeframes of the specific record retention laws in the state in which you practice. Do not “single out” specific records for destruction outside of the standard office operating procedure for records destruction, and record the time, date and circumstance of the destruction for future reference. That record need not list individual patient records, but should be sufficient to identify which group of destroyed records contained a particular patient’s record.

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