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CMS Reminds Providers of the Document Retention Requirements

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently published an MLN Matters Article regarding the length of time physicians are required to retain documentation.  The article reiterated that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 requires a covered entity to retain required documentation for six years from the date of its creation or the date when it was last in effect, whichever is later.  Although some state laws may have shorter periods, HIPAA requirements preempt these laws.  In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires covered entities to utilize appropriate administrative, technical and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of medical records and other protected health information (PHI) for the period in which the information is maintained by the covered entity, including disposal.

The MLN Matters Article also reminded providers that submit cost reports that they are required to retain the original or legally reproduced for at least 5 years after the closure of the cost report.

As is reiterated by this MLN Matters Article, the maintenance of accurate medical records for Medicare beneficiaries is very important.  The medical records should be completed promptly, accessible, retained and providers should implement a system of author identification to ensure authenticity and security.

Finally, CMS is working to implement an incentive program for eligible providers to establish the meaningful use of certified electronic health records (EHRs).  One step in this process is the development of initial standards and certification requirements by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC).

For more information on proper medical records retention policies or the use of electronic health records, please visit or contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888. 

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