Legacy Data Retention and the Proverbial 7-Year Itch to Purge

Purge Files

To purge or not to purge, that is the question.

Making sense of legacy health data retention takes equal parts patience and planning.

Although HIPAA privacy rules don’t address medical record retention requirements, there are retention mandates that vary by state. For example, hospitals in MA are required to retain health records for 30 years after the discharge date of final date of service. On the flip side, nine states require hospitals to keep those same records for only 5 years, while others provide no specific retention requirements for hospitals.

The fluctuation in requirements has led many organizations to individualize their purging practices. Some providers prefer to keep every patient record in perpetuity, while others follow a detailed record destruction strategy based on specific criteria.

AHIMA offers this guidance on retention and destruction of health information:

Destruction of patient health information by an organization or provider must be carried out in accordance with federal and state law pursuant to a proper written retention schedule and destruction policy approved by appropriate organizational parties.

As with record retention, there is no single standard destruction requirement. Some states require organizations to create an abstract of the destroyed patient information, notify patients when destroying patient information, or specify the method of destruction used to render the information unreadable. Organizations should reassess the method of destruction annually based on current technology, accepted practices, and availability of timely and cost-effective destruction services.

As the need to provide patients and providers accessibility to old medical records becomes more and more apparent, the line between which records should be kept and which should be discarded becomes increasingly grey. However, it’s possible to streamline your lifecycle data management by retaining legacy records in a secure and searchable way that also supports your purging strategy.

When considering your medical retention policy plan, take into account the cost and efficiency benefits archiving legacy data can provide. Maintaining old medical records and additional PHI doesn’t have to take up massive amounts of server space, file room, time and money – an archiving solution such as HealthData Archiver® can turn that blurred line into a more clear path by providing:

  • Easy, long-term access to data that meets retention requirements
  • Lower software support costs
  • Lower hardware costs
  • Decreased cybersecurity risk
  • Flexible purging capabilities

If it’s time to come up with a legacy data management plan and you’re unsure about which records to keep, which to purge, or how to maintain your old data without sinking substantial resources into it connect with us – we’re here to help.



Jun 26 2019

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