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A case held in the Supreme Court last May has caused many health care providers and other guardians of medical records to swiftly reassess their record retention schedules. Prior to the decision in the case Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Hunt, the statute of limitations for FCA actions was six years—a guideline many organizations have abided by since as far back as the late 1990s.

Hunt’s case revolved around his assertion that two government defense contractors had submitted false claims for payment in 2006 and 2007, allegations that were dismissed by a district court citing the six-year statue of limitations law. However, the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded due to the fact that Hunt was not an “official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances.”

This ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court on May 13, 2019, and has caused ripple effects across the health care industry. For what is a potential landmark case for all who house medical records, experts are now recommending a 10-year retention period to avoid liability.

 

Unique Records, Unique Requirements

Creating a new medical records retention policy of 10 years will satisfy the statute of limitations for most FCA claims, but there are also a variety of unique medical records that have much lengthier requirements.

For example, research records or studies that are related to cancer patients must be maintained for 30 years, per the FDA, while other populations may be governed by their own set of regulations.

One such population—health care providers who administer vaccines—are required by the CDC to keep a permanent medical record of vaccinations. This requirement has become increasingly relevant with the large influx of COVID-19 vaccinations. Those who provide vaccinations are required to record the date of administration, vaccine manufacturer, address of clinic and other information that is tied to a recipient and must store this permanently in electronic or paper form.

 

It’s Not Just Retention–Document Storage & Destruction As a Liability

Coupled with the recent Supreme Court ruling, having a knowledgeable and forward-thinking records manager is becoming a true asset for any organization, while also serving as a strong safeguard against legal action. It’s vitally important to know not only retention rules in the health care industry, but also destruction laws that govern—documentation that must be permanent.

The date, method, description and a signed affidavit for each record that is destroyed are required to be stored permanently by organizations. HIPAA also mandates additional requirements for storage (on-site or off-site) in order to safeguard the security of these documents.

If you haven’t already put a plan into action to address these new laws, you could potentially be opening the door to liability. That being said, there are experts who can guide you through this process if the robust nature of this project seems daunting.

Since 1981, Western Integrated Systems has seen a variety of evolutions in the records retention and destruction arena and can tailor a compliant solution for your organization. Our 40 years in the industry have translated to countless insights and value adds for our clients, benefits we hope to pass along to you.

Contact us today and our team of record experts will guide you through this process and create a records retention and destruction schedule that is compliant for 2021 and scalable for any new adaptations in the future.