How Long Are Medical Records Kept In Pennsylvania?

Editorial Team

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In Pennsylvania, healthcare providers and facilities will maintain several medical records. These can include patient case histories, notes from treatment sessions or consultations, lab results and other testing reports, x-rays and other imaging studies, prescription information, billing documents, and other documentation related to a patient’s care. Depending on the type of healthcare facility or provider involved, these records may be paper-based or electronic.

Regardless of the type or format of these medical records, providers must keep them for at least seven years after the service date. State law mandates this to ensure continuity of care for patients over time. It also helps protect the provider against potential legal liability if a patient later contests the appropriateness of treatment rendered or information provided at a particular time.

However, some specific circumstances under which providers maintain medical records for longer than the legally-mandated seven-year period. For example, suppose a health insurance carrier directly pays for care related to a specific condition or illness. They may request that records related to such care be retained until all payments on behalf of their members have been finalized. In addition, there may also be an extended retention period attached to medical records involving substance abuse, mental health conditions, and other medically sensitive issues where confidentiality and privacy must be strictly ensured.

If a patient makes a written request, the physician must make available a copy of the medical record relating to the patient in the physician’s possession or control. However, a physician may withhold information from a patient if, in his professional judgment, it would adversely affect the patient’s health.

When Do Providers Need to Retain Medical Records?

If someone provides medical services to patients who reside in Pennsylvania, they need to retain medical records for at least seven years. For providers outside of Pennsylvania, they only need to keep them for three years.

There are also several specific circumstances in which providers may need to retain medical records for a more extended period. For example, suppose they work with a health insurance provider that pays for some or all of the care provided by the practice. In that case, they may require them to maintain patient records of their members beyond the standard seven-year retention period. Additionally, suppose the practice involves providing care for mental health conditions, substance abuse, or other sensitive medical issues where confidentiality and privacy must be strictly maintained. In that case, there may be additional requirements for keeping patient records.

If a patient makes a written request for access to their medical records, the provider is legally obligated to provide them with copies of those records upon request. However, under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to withhold information from a patient if, in their professional judgment, doing so would be in the best interest of their health.

There are several key considerations to keep in mind when it comes to storing and maintaining medical records.

First, a provider will need to choose a secure location where all the documents can be stored for the legally-mandated seven-year period or any extended retention period as required by law.

They will also need to ensure that the medical records software or other recordkeeping systems are updated regularly and maintained in accordance with industry standards for data security and privacy protection.

Finally, it is essential to work closely with an experienced legal team who can advise them on any additional requirements related to keeping patient records for longer than the standard seven-year period, as well as provide any other support they may need when it comes to maintaining and protecting their patients.

Who Can Request Them?

You can request medical records from any provider who has treated a patient within the last five years. This includes hospitals, doctors, dentists, nursing homes, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers. To request your medical records, you will typically need to provide basic information about yourself, including your name and contact details and the name of the healthcare provider you wish to receive the records.

Work in a setting where patient privacy and confidentiality are critical considerations, such as mental health or substance abuse clinics. Additional requirements for retaining medical records may exist beyond the standard seven-year period. In these cases, working closely with an experienced legal team who can advise you on any specific retention requirements related to your practice and help you maintain compliance with relevant laws and regulations is vital.

Whether you are requesting your medical records or another individual, it is always best to work with an experienced healthcare provider who understands the specific laws and regulations that apply to your situation. Whether you are looking for legal advice, support with record retention, or other issues related to medical records, there is a team of experts ready to help you every step of the way.

If you need assistance retaining medical records, or have questions about the process, talk to your healthcare provider today for more information.

Where Should They Be Stored?

If you need medical records, ask the provider where they will be kept. Most states require that medical records be stored for at least five years after treatment. However, some states only require that records be kept for three years.

Records may be stored in various formats depending on your state’s specific requirements and the type of medical provider you are working with. This can include hard copies in paper files, electronic records saved on a computer system, or digital images stored on an encrypted cloud server.

Regardless of the storage format, it is critical to ensure that all medical records are maintained securely and confidential. This may involve implementing additional security measures such as password protection for user access or encryption methods for storing sensitive data.

If you need assistance ensuring that your medical records are handled correctly and securely, talk to your healthcare provider for more information. They will be able to help guide you through the process.

What Happens After Seven Years?

After seven years, Pennsylvania may destroy the medical records. You may request an extension of up to two additional years. After the medical records are destroyed, you may request a copy if they are still relevant to your current healthcare needs.

If you have questions about what happens after seven years or whether you can request an extension for keeping your medical records beyond this time, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider or legal team for guidance. They will be able to help ensure that all of your medical records are handled appropriately and following applicable laws and regulations.

In summary, medical records are kept for at least seven years in Pennsylvania after service. However, depending on specific circumstances surrounding a patient’s care or treatment, these records may be retained longer than this legally-mandated minimum period. If you need more information about keeping your medical records up to date and secure, speak with your healthcare provider or a medical records expert in your area.


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