When it’s time to retire, a physician’s duty to act in the best interest of their patients does not cease. While the nature of these duties can vary slightly from state to state, retiring doctors must remain within guidelines pursuant to state and federal laws and regulations. Doctors retiring while in the state of Texas must follow a strict set of procedures established by the Texas Medical Board (TMB).
Pursuant to TMB Rules Chapter 165.5(a)(1-3), a retiring physician leaving a medical practice must:
- Provide reasonable notification to patients
- Notify the TMB of the date of retirement and non-availability to patients
- Ensure patients are able to receive a copy of all medical records or arrange for record transfer to another physician
- Specify which party has custodianship of medical records
- Advise patients how copies of records can be obtained
Retirement and HIPAA Compliance
Established in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) delineates standards that dictate how medical professionals store and dispose of personal protected health information (PHI). The Security Rule established that PHI must undergo a series of protections, including physical, technological, and administrative measures. In addition, the Privacy Rule restricts access of all PHI to certain individuals who hold rights of access. Together, these rules ensure PHI is safe from individuals wishing to access it for nefarious purposes while allowing access for patients and others who hold rights to access.
A physician’s responsibility to HIPAA Compliance does not end with retirement. While HIPAA itself does not specify rules for retirement, Texas law dictates that all licensed physicians must maintain patient records and allow reasonable access. Although notification of patients must take place within a reasonable time frame before retirement or practice closure, physicians may not destroy or restrict patient access to medical records upon retirement before state law allows for such disposal.
Medical Record Storage During Retirement
Before retirement, it is crucial that doctors develop a medical record storage strategy. Patient PHI records must be secured long-term and made available for patient request and retrieval as necessary. In most cases, this involves storage within a protected facility like Armstrong Archives, LLC; upon patient notification of records transferred to Armstrong Archives, records are archived, tracked, and available for quick retrieval at the patient’s request.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do I need to store records in Texas?
Currently, Texas state law mandates that all physicians must maintain patient records for a period of seven years after the date of last patient contact. For patients under 18 at the time of contact, physicians must maintain patient records for seven years from the date of last contact or until the patient turns 21, whichever is longer. After these waiting periods, Armstrong Archives, LLC can ensure secure document destruction of all expired PHI.
Where are my records stored?
Armstrong Archives, LLC maintains a specially designed storage space specifically for PHI located in Dallas, Texas. Records are kept safe and secure. They are indexed and tracked for access as needed. If access is needed, individuals granted access may view the documents in an on-site viewing room, scan as needed for email or online access, or request delivery via certified document delivery.