How Long Do I Have to Keep My Patient’s Medical Records?

One of the more frequent calls to the CAP Hotline is: “How long should I keep a patient’s medical records?”

The Cooperative of American Physicians (CAP) and the California Medical Association (CMA) recommend that the minimum amount of time for record retention be 10 years after the last date the patient was seen.

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Two reasons why:

  • Due to federal fraud and abuse laws, investigations of billing fraud of Medi-Cal and Medicare patient records may go back 10 years.
  •  Data provided by professional liability carriers note that 99 percent of claims are filed within 10 years of the incident resulting to the claim.

Additional considerations for records pertaining to minors and pregnancy:

  • Records should be kept to 10 years after the patient turns 18 years old. Per CMA, “in no event should a minor’s record be destroyed until at least one year after the minor reaches the age of 18.”
  • Records of pregnant women should be retained at least until the child reaches the age of maturity.

Risk strategy for physicians: An office record retention policy. This policy should include medical records, billing records, employment records and other administrative records with regards to how long each record must be maintained, how it is stored and how old records are destroyed at the end of the required retention period.  

Authored by Deborah Kichler, RN, MSHCA CAP Senior Risk Manager

If you have questions about this article, please contact us. This information should not be considered legal advice applicable to a specific situation. Legal guidance for individual matters should be obtained from a retained attorney.