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Patient Record Retention: Tips for Compliance and Protection

patient recordsWith the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) into practices, patient experience has improved, among other advancements at the point of care. These include better access to patient records and highly efficient care delivery. While these are some significant benefits, some practices experience certain drawbacks too, such as temporary slowdown of processes during EHR transition and high ongoing maintenance costs. One of the most pressing issues include patient record retention.

The laws for patient record retention vary from state to state. Following is one of the examples:

“Pennsylvania physicians are required to retain medical records for adult patients for at least seven years from the last date-of-service.”

On the contrary, “Ohio, does not have a general state law that requires records be kept for a minimum length of time.”

The lifecycle of the patient record starts when information is created and ends when the record is destroyed. The process has been simplified after the digitization of patient records with EHRs. However, there are many issues still in place, making it difficult for the practices to focus on care delivery.

Many patient record retention obstacles can be eliminated by taking the following steps:

Keeping the Medium to One

Medical providers often face confusion because of different record storage mediums. Many practices do not have the capability to convert their entire paper records into digital records, which leads to duplication of the records. Moreover, physical records take up storage space, because of which the provider must incur high fixed costs. This can be avoided by having a transparent and defined system of record retention, with multiple digital backups, which can be accessed in case of any contingency.

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Aligning the Practice With State Laws

Because of the variation of medical laws in different states, practices spend a significant amount of time going through compliance issues. The best way around this is to have the practice aligned with state laws from the beginning. This can come in very handy, especially when it comes to the storage and retrieval of patient records, which are sensitive parts of the practice.

Partnership Change Agreement

One of the main factors that affect the medical records in practice are partnership dissolutions. If an EHR system is shared by two or more doctors in a practice, chances are high that the patient records will be intertwined – mainly because it is a common practice among physicians to share patients.

According to a senior officer at the Coker Group, “There is no easy way to surgically remove only the records that apply to the one doctor.”

The best way around this is to draft the partnership agreement in a way that is conducive to the patient records, so if a partner decides to leave, there is a formal method to divide the patient records. This will ensure the smooth running of a practice, along with systems in place for partnership dissolution.

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“The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is proposing to require that EHR vendors be able to export granular data from patient records in a standardized format using application programming interfaces (APIs), which is an enormous change in the industry,” says Robert Tennant, director of health information technology policy for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Keeping Patient Records Secure With HIPAA-Compliant Apps

File sharing becomes secure with encrypted, HIPAA-compliant mobile applications. Healthcare providers can freely share sensitive patient information with one another, without the possibility of malicious intrusion or record interception. Clinical communication applications are more secure than the antiquated, traditional pager and enhance team collaboration in the process.

Various strategies on how to properly maintain patient medical records are still in the pipeline, but we can see noticeable changes coming. Practices have to initiate the conversation on how to maintain and improve the data protection processes with their EHR system, so when the time comes, there are systems in place to efficiently handle the data.

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