Record Retention for Physicians No Longer in Private Practice


Who retains medical records, and how are these records accessed, when a private practice is sold or closes? Here are considerations for developing a legacy data management strategy and future Records Release services.

Out Of Business

Managing private practice medical records is a big job. A few items on the to-do list to monitor and address include:  record retention policies, 21st Century Cures Act regulations, HIPAA privacy and security regulations , EMR system upgrades, release of information requests to fulfill – and the list goes on.

So, consider for a moment a basic question: Who manages medical records when the physician is out of business?  Patients, payers, employers and lawyers will have medical record inquiries years after a physician retires, dies, relocates, goes out of business or shuts down a medical practice for some other reason. So, who will retain the EHR records and release the information?

Planning ahead is a necessary step as 20 percent of active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade and there aren’t enough younger physicians coming in to replace them.

All Providers Should Develop a Legacy Data Management Strategy

If your practice is among those that may soon close its doors or is in the process of being acquired by a hospital or health system, it’s time to develop an EHR retention strategy. This entails putting a plan into action for securing electronic records for the long-term. While this certainly includes protected health information for patients as dictated by the practice’s EMR retention policy, it also includes other business and employee information like general ledger, accounting and HR record retention.

Physicians who are planning ahead for retirement or closing their practice should:

  • Obtain Legal Advice – Work with an attorney to make sure legal bases are covered in terms of notifying relevant parties in a timely manner and complying with medical record retention and destruction laws. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has a complete checklist for closing a medical practice.
  • Choose a Trusted Agent to Manage Future Release of Information Requests – If you haven’t already invested in transferring legacy medical records into an archive, now might be the time to investigate your options. Instead of burdening your estate and family with medical record retrieval for years to come, records could be stored electronically in a vendor-managed cloud with information released  using an 800-number and/or online request for payers, patients, employers, lawyers, auditors, etc.

Our broad experience with more than 550 clinical and financial software brands enables our team to be at the forefront of privacy and security policies for long-term patient and employee records management and request fulfillment.

Would you like to spend your retirement relaxing, or, responding to record requests? Does your family or executor need this extra work for the next 10 to 20 years? Contact Harmony Healthcare IT for more information about health data archival and records release services.

Records Release Services

Editor’s Note: This blog contains content from an earlier post from April 11th, 2023.

Aug 05 2018

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