How long should patients’ medical documents be kept?

Are you a liberal doctor or work in a hospital setting and are you looking for solutions for filing and archiving your patients’ medical records? Archives Conseil answers your questions and offers you a solution for storage, archiving and even, once the legal deadline has passed, destruction of your medical archives.

What is the legal retention period for medical documents?

Two deadlines are particularly important to remember (and respect):

  • 30 years: Article 24 of the Code of Ethics specifies: “Patient records must be kept for thirty years after the last contact with the patient, securely and respecting professional secrecy. After this period, the doctor may destroy the records. When his practice ceases, the doctor transmits to the doctor designated by the patient or to the patient all useful information to guarantee the continuity of care”.
  • 20 years: the civil limitation period for liability is twenty years from the day after the event that caused the damage. In an opinion issued on September 15, 2018, the National Council of the Order of Physicians specifies that “this responsibility passes to the heirs in the event of the doctor’s death”, and “that the patient file is also a piece of evidence (cf. art. 22 of the Code) in the context of both ethical and civil liability. In this regard, the doctor or, where applicable, his relatives must, depending on the problem, keep the possibility of accessing the files”.

As you will have understood, the legal retention period for medical records is long and requires a precise organizational strategy allowing a possible successor to easily consult a patient’s file, perhaps years after the end of your activities. Note that medical records must be kept for the same period of time even if your patient has died and even after your own death (which we want as late as possible). A certain archiving procedure for medical files must also be respected in order to ensure, of course, that medical secrecy is respected in all circumstances. The same applies to the archiving of the patient’s social file or the conservation of the patient’s administrative file.

How to proceed with the destruction of medical documents?

At Archives Conseil, we have the structure and logistics necessary for the conservation, classification and archiving of medical records for 40 years. Once the legal deadline has been reached, we offer you our services for the destruction of medical records with, at the end of the procedure, a certificate of destruction/recycling which is established. How do we destroy confidential archives such as patient records? We shred them, compact them and recycle them following European recycling standards.

Benefit from our advice on archiving your medical documents

Would you like more advice, tips and tricks on filing and archiving medical records or would you like more information on outsourcing this archiving? We are at your entire disposal to answer all your questions.