Medical Records Retention Laws by State 2023

States With More Stringent Retention Periods

As with most healthcare requirements, there are general rules and guidelines that are set on a federal level to ensure each state can build upon this structure. Some states prefer to keep it simple and follow federal guidelines, while others have different interpretations or more stringent rules. For example, Connecticut is much more stringent in its approach to the law. While certain states like adopting the HIPAA guideline that 6 years is enough, Connecticut adopts the approach that medical records must be held on to 7 years from the last date of treatment. If the person were to be deceased, then their records could be retained for 3 years before disposing of the information.

On the other hand, hospital records are usually more uniform in their requirements, outlining a specific time and date. Many states, such as Connecticut, Illinois, and Louisiana require records to be held for up to 10 years after the patient is discharged, treated, or contacted. Other states, such as Hawaii, fully disclosed exactly what types of medical documentation should be on the record, and for how long. Full medical records must be kept at the hospital up to 7 years after the last entry of data, but basic information must be kept for up to 25 years following the final entry.

States With More Relaxed Retention Periods

In some jurisdictions, medical doctors are allowed to practice their vocation as they see fit. Alabama stipulates that medical doctors must retain all medical records for as long as necessary to treat the patient, both for medical and legal purposes. This is an extremely vague interpretation that may be disputable in court. However, it allows medical professionals to properly utilize their expertise as to what standards and practices they can set for their clinic.

While it is extremely uncommon for a state not to directly specify a time frame, it does exist beyond Alabama. New Mexico is another interesting case, which requires medical professionals to keep records 2 years beyond the requirement of state insurance laws, and Medicaid and Medicare requirements. For minors, it is 2 years after the patient turns legal age, usually meaning 20 years of age. South Dakota is most vague, stipulating that records can be dismissed if they have become inactive, or when the whereabouts of the patient have become unknown to the physician.

Federal Stance on Medical Records

Federal requirements set a minimum of 6 years for both hospital and medical records. This is the basic HIPAA regulation, but some states do not use this as a guideline, namely the ones mentioned above. Most states do adhere to this rule though, and often are more stringent or at par in terms of their legislature. Federal guidelines also set the basic structure for the necessary destruction of records, such as those that have to do with abortions, ambulatory services, rehabilitation, veteran affairs, diagnostics, and comprehensive outpatient facilities.

Medical Records Retention Laws by State 2023