Keeping Pediatric Records Secure: Navigating HIPAA Compliance
Even though most pediatricians now use encrypted electronic medical records, many still maintain older patient files in paper form. When it comes to determining how to securely store large volumes of pediatric medical records, some medical practices choose a band-aid type fix for a problem that is best solved with a more comprehensive solution.
To ensure the security of patients’ PHI and maintain HIPAA Privacy Rule compliance, many physicians try to store their patients’ paper files onsite in a spare office or closet. However, due to the high cost of office space and the sheer bulk of a single doctor’s medical records, this quickly becomes unmanageable. Some then turn to their own garages, attics, or a mini-storage unit for the storage of their pediatric medical files.
Initially, a stop-gap solution like a self-storage unit is meant to be a temporary, cost-saving measure while a decision for the long term is made. But months can stretch into years and soon the quick fix for HIPAA record retention turns into a costly problem when decreased staff productivity, damaged/misplaced files, and aggravation are factored into the equation.
Happily, there is a better way.
HIPAA Retention of Medical Records
Recently, Armstrong Archives received a call from a business associate in another large city. The call was concerning the referral of a potential client—a pediatric medical practice in Arlington, right in the center of the DFW Metroplex. Our colleague recommended us because of our decades of experience helping clients with HIPAA retention of medical records and our reputation for creative problem solving for our clients.
We found that the pediatric medical office had been keeping their confidential medical files in a self-storage unit for many, many years. Keep in mind that mini-storage facilities are not the ideal environment for storing paper documents. With minimal security, the facility also did not provide especially clean or weather-safe conditions. The unit was hot in the summer, cold in the winter, dirty, and disorganized. In short, going to the storage unit to find a stored medical file was guaranteed to be an unpleasant experience for whoever drew the short straw.
Fortunately, we have tackled this type of job many times before and our team was on it! We went to the pediatric practice’s storage facility in Arlington, picked up all their stored materials and safely transported them to our secure, Carrollton, Texas warehouse. Once back at our facility, we inventoried each box’s contents, cataloged and indexed the files for easy retrieval in the future, then carefully re-boxed the materials for clean, secure medical records storage.
Now that the paper records are inventoried, the staff at the pediatric office has access to our online inventory and order system. This system enables them to know the contents of each box. With just a quick phone call or email to our customer service team, the needed file or document can be on its way!
Pediatric Medical Record Scanning
Many clients wonder if they should have all their records scanned, which enables them to access any document online, at any time. For clients who will need to access a large number of their files frequently, our service bureau solution for document scanning and imaging is an excellent solution. But for records that must be maintained (such as those subject to HIPAA record retention rules) but may not ever be needed, our scan-on-demand solution is the way to go.
Scan-on-demand is our system where we catalog the contents of your boxes, so we know where every file is located. If you need an electronic copy of a document, all you have to do is call or submit an online request. We will scan that document or file and email it to you in short order! Our scan-on-demand system gives you the benefit of scanning your paper files to convert them into electronic medical records, but at a mere fraction of the cost!
Of course, if you prefer, you can always come to our facility and use our climate-controlled document viewing room for as long as you like.
And, Armstrong Archives does more than just store paper medical files. We also store and manage pediatric electronic medical records and handle the secure destruction of protected health information, whether in the form of paper documents or digital records.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Medical Record Storage
How long do pediatricians keep medical records?
Pediatricians and other doctors are required to maintain patient medical records for their minor patients, in a HIPAA compliant manner, for at least seven years after the date the patient was last treated or until the patient is 21, whichever comes later. Requirements for hospitals are different. Hospitals must keep medical records of their minor patients for at least ten years after the patient was last treated in the hospital, or until the patient is 20 years of age, whichever comes later.
How long does Texas keep pediatric medical records?
Texas Administrative Code (Title 22, Part 9, Chapter 165, Rule §165.1) details requirements for the maintenance of “an adequate medical record for each patient that is complete, contemporaneous, and legible.” Part (b) (2) of Rule §165.1 states that a doctor who treats a patient under the age of 18 must maintain the patient’s medical record for seven years from the date of last treatment, or until the patient becomes 21 years of age, whichever is later.
Texas public health agencies also maintain medical records and must follow retention rules from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The majority of patient medical records for those under age 18 must be kept for seven years past the last date of treatment or until the patient’s 21st birthday, whichever is later. Medical records involving STDs including interview records, investigations, and disease intervention case management notes will be kept three years after the last treatment date, or until the minor patient becomes 21, whichever is later. Patient records on Hansen’s disease will be kept permanently.
When to destroy pediatric medical records?
Generally speaking, pediatric medical records must be maintained (in a HIPAA compliant manner) by the physician or the associated medical practice for seven years after the date the patient was last seen, or until the patient’s 21st birthday, whichever is later. After this time period has elapsed, the physician or practice may destroy the records using a secure method.
HIPAA and Secure Pediatric Medical Records Storage
Regardless of the industry, whether you need secure storage of 20 or 20,000 boxes of files or two million electronic records, Armstrong Archives is up to the task. As this example illustrates, although we are in the records management business, we are a service company first and foremost. When you refer us to colleagues and associates, you confirm that.
We take pride in going the extra mile to provide the right solution for our clients and delivering friendly, efficient service, at a fair price. Armstrong Archives may not be the biggest records management company around, but bigger isn’t necessarily better. We have satisfied clients all over Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas in cities like Plano, Denton, McKinney, Frisco, and Irving, just to name a few. And if you’re outside of Texas, we can help you, too! Just give us a call and we will help you find the right storage solution! Call (972) 597-1751 today!