A Publication of the Virginia Medical Group Management Association

Summer 2007

Welcome to the quarterly member newsletter of the Virginia Medical Group Management Association (VMGMA).

CONTENTS

Members testify to oppose Anthem’s request to move services out-of-state
(cover page)

Become more efficient by putting technology to work

VMGMA is taking an active approach to improving service to consumers

Medical record retention in physician practices

Your support of bi-partisan, non-profit committee is vital

Communicating effectively during a crisis

Fall 2007 VMGMA Conference

MASTHEAD

Practice Notes is the quarterly member newsletter of the Virginia Medical Group Management Association. If you have feedback regarding this newsletter, article ideas or suggestions, please contact the editor:

Thomas Miller,
MSHA, CMPE
VMGMA Secretary
Phone:
(540) 355-1964
E-mail: tmiller@carilion.com

Medical record retention in physician practices

If you ask physicians across Virginia how long they are required to maintain their patient records, chances are you will receive a range of responses.  Some may say five years and others may say 10, while quite a few would say that patient records should be maintained forever and passed down from generation to generation.  Perhaps the varying perceptions exist because Virginia only recently adopted regulations that specify minimum time periods for physicians to maintain patient records.  In contrast, hospitals have had longstanding regulations on medical record retention (12VAC5-410-370). 

Effective Oct. 19, 2005, Board of Medicine regulations (18VAC85-20-26) now require physician practices to maintain an adult patient’s records for a minimum of six years following the last patient encounter.  The regulations provide an exception to this retention requirement for records that previously have been transferred to another physician or that have been provided to the patient.  Records of a minor child, including immunizations, must be maintained until the child reaches 18, with a minimum time for record retention of six years from the last patient encounter regardless of the age of the child. 

The regulations also require physicians to post information or in some manner inform all patients concerning the time frame for record retention and destruction.  This notice could take the form of yet another posting to the sliding glass window in the reception area, or it could be included in the practice’s HIPAA privacy notice or other paperwork provided to patients.  The regulations also stipulate that patient records must only be destroyed in a manner that protects patient confidentiality, such as by incineration or shredding. 

The regulations also require physicians to post information or in some manner inform all patients concerning the time frame for record retention and destruction. 

Keep in mind that the Board of Medicine regulations establish only a minimum time period for maintaining records, but other laws, contract provisions, attorney recommendations and additional factors may give reason for physicians to consider longer retention periods.  For example, the federal Mammography Quality Standards Act (21 CFR 900.12) requires facilities that perform mammograms to maintain medical records and films of mammograms for “not less than five years, or not less than 10 years if no additional mammograms of the patient are performed at the facility.” 

Physician practices should also review their liability insurance contracts and consider contacting their liability insurers to identify any contract provisions or recommendations that may apply.  Other considerations may include professional society policies and recommendations.  For example, American Medical Association policy (E-7.05) states that immunization records must always be kept, though this is not a requirement in Virginia and many other states.

Virginia law (§ 32.1-127.1:01) permits health care providers to store medical records in electronic format and other media.  The original paper record may be destroyed upon the creation of an “unalterable copy,” a term that is not defined in the statute. The converted record must identify the location of portions of the record that could not be stored in such format, and these portions must be maintained.

For more information, please contact Jeff Buthe, Policy Analyst for the Medical Society of Virginia at  jbuthe@msv.org or by phone at (804) 377-1035.

 

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© 2007 Virginia Medical Group Management Association
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