Corporate Compliance

Document retention

Compliance Monitor, March 18, 2005

A: Most hospitals either already have developed--or are in the process of developing--document retention plans. If your hospital has one, you should consult it. If not, a safe rule of thumb is seven years to keep paper documents. This basic rule comes from IRS regulations relating to financial audits.

The best solution is to move to an optical imaging system where you can store documents permanently. Paper documents should be destroyed--not just thrown away--because they contain sensitive protected health information.

This question was answered by Susan Phelps, MBA, MHA, director of revenue cycle management for High Point Regional Health System in North Carolina.

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