HIPAA Compliant Storage Requirements for Paper Records

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) established a set of regulations involving the storage of and destruction of protected health information (PHI). This act was created to protect the sensitive patient information used by healthcare providers. As non-compliance can cause providers to face costly fines and lawsuits, as well as jeopardize the trust of their patients, remaining HIPAA compliant is critical for all medical professionals.

When it comes to keeping medical records, many providers choose to store paper records at their practice or on an offsite storage location. Recent years have seen growth of record digitization and electronic storage, but paper records remain a vital component of many medical practices. For this reason, when it comes to storing medical records, there are a few common options.

List of HIPAA Requirements for Paper Records

1. Right to Access
Individuals can request a copy of their health records at any time.

2. Accessible Information
Access extends to medical records, billing details, and other health-related documents.

3. Exclusions
Access restrictions apply to psychotherapy notes and information compiled for legal use.

4. Personal Representatives
Legal representatives can access an individual’s health information.

5. Request Procedure
Entities may require written requests for access and must verify the requestor’s identity.

6. Format of Access
Information should be provided in the requested format, if possible.

7. Response Time
Entities must respond within 30 days, with a possible 30-day extension.

8. Fees
Reasonable fees may be charged for providing copies of records.

9. Denial of Access
Access can be denied under specific circumstances, with some denials subject to review.

10. Third-party Sharing
Individuals can instruct entities to share their information with a designated third party.

#1. Physician’s Practice (In-House)

There are many different methods of storing medical records, but many physicians who maintain paper medical records keep them within their own practice, also referred to as “in-house” storage. This allows the physician to have immediate access to the records they need but requires diligence regarding compliance with HIPAA standards to ensure information is stored safely and securely. As a result, while there are many advantages to keeping records in-house, there are also disadvantages.

To avoid risks of violating HIPAA compliant storage requirements for paper records, there are a few steps a practice should take:

  • Create physical safeguards. These safeguards can include measures such as maintaining a double lock rule. The double lock rule dictates that if you are storing medical records in a locked cabinet, that cabinet should also be kept within a locked room.
  • Avoid incidental disclosures. Any medical practice that keeps patient records on file should avoid disclosing information inadvertently. Disclosures can include other patients overhearing medical information or reading others’ medical records. Creating a physical barrier between the waiting and administration area can help to prevent incidental disclosure.
  • Eliminate user error. User error is one of the primary reasons for HIPAA violations, so it is important to develop an established, in-house process for accessing and handling records. Any staff should have ready access to clear procedures when it comes to handling sensitive paper records.

To ensure that these measures are implemented, it helps to turn to a consulting team that understands how to properly implement the requirements in place under HIPAA. Armstrong Archives, LLC has years of experience in storing, organizing, and destroying medical records. Allowing an experienced team to evaluate your needs and construct a plan for handling your medical records can give you peace of mind and ensure HIPAA compliance.

#2. Electronic Health Records (EHR)

The process of keeping medical records has changed over the years with the introduction of digital records, and new federal regulations incentivize switching to electronic storage. Electronic health records (EHRs) have helped to boost efficiency of access and security when it comes to the storage of medical records. You can find files using simple keyword searches, make copies quickly, and send and receive files securely.

There are many other benefits of utilizing EHRs, including coding assistance, audit trails, and security measures like password protection and data encryption. Choosing a records storage company like Armstrong Archives to handle the transition to EHR means you can easily and efficiently complete document scanning and security measures. Your EHR documents are in a safe place, free from the risks posed by physical documents.

#3. Off-Site Storage for Medical Records

Storing medical records can also be done offsite. In fact, offsite storage is often used for medical records in situations where record retention laws are involved, including retired physicians. This means a requirement exists that you maintain the records without destroying them, but most are rarely accessed.

Maintaining records off-site ensures that you are HIPAA compliant while freeing up space for documents that require more frequent access. Off-site storage helps to simplify retention and document destruction when it becomes necessary. It is important to choose a document storage site like one of Armstrong Archives’ facilities, which offer climate-controlled storage and secure online or physical access when you need it.

Securely Store Your Medical Records Today

If you are seeking medical record storage, digital and electronic records management, climate-controlled storage, document scanning and shredding, or secure document destruction in Dallas-Fort Worth, Armstrong Archives can meet your needs. Our team of experienced experts strives to provide our clients with safe, efficient medical record services backed by ARMA International and PRISM International standards. Our staff regularly undergoes training to stay up to date on the latest federal regulations as well as those for a variety of industries. We are a proud NRC and BBB accredited business, as well as a certified WBENC.

If you are ready to ensure that your medical records storage occurs in a secure, HIPAA-compliant manner, contact us today.

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