The issue of record retention is one of particular concern for a closing medical practitioner. For a retiring or relocating physician, or for the estate of a physician, one can either consult with the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons or with the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) for the exact wording of the guidelines pertaining to the particulars of record retention.
Generally speaking, while there is some variation in the guidelines for adult record retention as set forth by the provincial Colleges, the CMPA maintains that 10 years is a “reasonable balance between the hardship that longer retention periods may impose and the potential benefit that comes with keeping records for a longer period”.
Lest there be any confusion about it, this refers to 10 years from the date of last entry, and not 10 years in general. We have seen numerous instances where this has been conveniently misinterpreted by physicians who actually went ahead and purged all paper older than 10 years, in their active patient records. In fact, until the patient has been absent from the practice for 10 years, the entire record must be retained.
Pediatric records is where things start getting a little more onerous. The CMPA states that the pediatric records must be retained until the patient reaches the age of majority PLUS 10 years. To be clear, that would mean that a newborn’s record must be retained for 28 years. This obligation survives the physician and is passed on to the physician’s estate.
Generally speaking, we recommend retention of pediatric files in one of the following 2 methods:
- Store them in banker’s boxes according to year of birth. That way, they can be shredded in batches when their mandated retention periods have lapsed.
- Scan all pediatric records for easy, low cost, long term digital retention.
For more information and general assistance with record retention, contact one of the experienced physician advisors at RSRS at 1-888-563-3732 or click here.