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⚕ HIPAA Q&A: How Long Do I Have to Keep Medical Records?

Figuring out how long to keep medical records can be tricky, with various organizations setting different rules for retention. It's vital to grasp the required retention period as it helps meet legal standards, supports patient care, and manages space efficiently.

So, what's the ideal duration for keeping medical records? There's no universal answer since it greatly depends on individual state laws and the specifics of the patient information. However, there are some general guidelines to follow:

For Adults: It's typically advised to hold onto records for a minimum of 6 to 10 years after the patient's last visit. Many specialists recommend a longer period due to diverse legal requirements across states, aiming to preserve the continuity of care.

For Minors: Records should be retained until the minor reaches adulthood (18 years old in most places) plus the usual retention timeframe, which means keeping files until the individual is about 25 to 28 years old.

For Medicare and Medicaid Providers: While the rule of thumb is to keep records for at least 7 years, specific state laws or circumstances might necessitate a longer retention period.


State Requirements (this document is a little older so double check with your state):

HIPAA Records:

CMS Requirements:

To Conclude:

Although it may seem easier to hold onto records forever, especially with digital options, finding the right balance between being accessible and ensuring privacy and security is crucial. Developing a detailed policy for how long to keep and when to destroy records, following legal and best practice guidelines, is essential for managing health information effectively.

The primary aim is to maintain these records not just for legal compliance but to ensure they fulfill their role in patient care while keeping patient information safe and secure.

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