Ask the expert: What steps should coordinators take to develop a record retention policy?

Residency Program Insider, February 8, 2011

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As the keeper of resident files, program coordinators should take the lead in developing or enhancing documentation retention policies. Ask the GME office to help you craft guidelines that all programs in your institution should follow.

Start your discussion by compiling a list of every document contained in a resident file. Go through each item on the list and group them in one of three categories:

  • Items that can be destroyed upon graduation
  • Items that must be retained permanently
  • Items that should be retained for a specified amount of time but not permanently

Refer to external and internal resources when developing your policy. For example, many sponsoring institutions post their retention policies on their websites, and they usually turn up if you perform an online search. Also reach out to colleagues via professional organizations and list-servs.

Internally, look for pointers on drafting your policy. For example, if your program is affiliated with a medical school or university, chances are the institution has a policy. It may not be specific to GME, but look for similar documents and follow that retention guideline.

When setting limits on how long programs should keep paperwork, take a worst-case scenario approach. Consider anything that could possibly happen that would require you to produce the item in question.

Committee members’ experiences will also provide scenarios to consider. Coordinators should share experiences of when they needed certain documents several years after a resident graduated because he or she became involved in litigation.

Look at the paperwork HR keeps in trainees’ employment files, and determine whether you should duplicate efforts.

This week’s question and answer are from Residency Program Alert.

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