The stacks seem endless—papers piled in every corner, threatening to topple with each passing second. Documents spill out of filing cabinets and onto the floor, forcing you to cut a precarious path from your desk to the door. It’s an endless whirl of images and ink, and you’re tempted to toss it all into the garbage. Be careful, though: some of this information may prove important and require retention.
What Is Document Retention?
Document retention is a form of records management, with individuals maintaining specific files for established periods of time. It’s intended to provide protection for both the public and the private sector. By keeping information on hand, quick responses to legal or security questions are possible.
What Type of Documents Apply for Retention?
Countless documents define the industrial world. Therefore, knowing which ones to save (and which ones to subsequently discard) is crucial.
According to the rules established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—known more commonly as HIPAA—the following files require, at least, 6 years of maintenance:
- 1: Any written or electronic record of a Covered Entity’s (CE) or Business Associate’s (BA) designation
- 2: Any information regarding security or privacy policies
- 3: All documented settings, activities, and assessments
- 4: All data use agreements
- 5: All signed authorizations and acknowledgments, as well as notices of efforts to obtain those authorizations and acknowledgments
- 6: Personal and private records
- 7: Documentation of processing compliance records
- 8: Disclosures for protected information
Within the document retention field, HIPAA creates the most comprehensive guidelines, allowing corporations to understand their storage needs. There are, however, exceptions to every rule, and noting the variations between state, federal, and industrial standards is essential.
Understanding How Long to Retain Documents
Each industry is unique. Each industry’s retention requirements, therefore, prove just as unique.
In addition to the guidelines created by HIPAA, the medical field also features specific requirements for retention. These requirements—as noted by the American Health Information Management Association—are as follows:
- Diagnostic images (adults): 5 years
- Diagnostic images (minors): 5 years after the age of maturity
- Disease index: 10 years
- Fetal heart monitor records: 10 years after the age of maturity
- Master patient index: Permanently
- Operative indexes: 10 years
- Patient medical records (adults): 10 years after most recent encounter
- Patient medical records (minors): Age of majority, plus statute of limitations
- Physician’s index: 10 years
- Register of births: Permanently
- Register of deaths: Permanently
- Register of surgical procedures: Permanently
To protect consumers and banking institutions alike, the financial field boasts specific retention requirements. The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act demands a 3-year holding period for all of the following:
- Information regarding race, national origin, or gender of loan applicants
- Information regarding types and amounts of loans
- Information regarding originations and purchases of loans
- Information regarding loan denials
- Information regarding withdrawn applications
- Information regarding applications that were approved but not accepted
- Information regarding incomplete applications
The insurance field expands the HIPAA guidelines, with companies forced to keep detailed records of every procedure. Policies established by the Federal Register include the following:
- Appraisals, safety records, and inspection reports: 6 years
- Expired policies: 10 years after termination date
- Insurance claims: 10 years after termination date
- Transferred records: 6 years
- Receivership records: 6 years
- Inherited records: 6 years
Human resources departments boast an endless collection of employee files. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a strict series of rules to maintain these files:
- Personnel records: 7 years after termination
- I-9 forms: 3 years after termination
- Hiring records: 2 years after hiring decision
- Medical exposure records: 30 years
- Payroll records: 3 years
- Tax records: 4 years from date tax is due
- FMLA records: 3 years
- Polygraph test records: 3 years
- Affirmative action records: 2 years
- Drug test records: 1 year
Each of these industries has specific retention rules. Make sure to study them with care when planning an office strategy.
How Can eFileCabinet Help with Retention?
Unsure of how long to keep documents? The eFileCabinet team understands. Retention rates are difficult to master, and trying to keep track of the necessary files can leave many companies feeling overwhelmed.
Let us help! Our automated system effortlessly adapts to all retention needs, with custom modules delivering key support:
- Effortlessly sync, store, and secure files within the system
- Create deletion timetables for each index, setting alerts for when they’re ready for purging
- Create modification timetables for each index, signaling that others may edit files as needed
- Create copy timetables for each index, sending files automatically to other users on specific days or hours
- Build extensive archives to save potentially important data
- Receive system alerts for all upcoming retention events
Through these services, companies can easily maintain data—eliminating unnecessary files, retaining key content, and even sharing access to records through a Cloud-based platform. This streamlines the documentation process and ensures greater efficiency.
Eliminate those hard-copy complications! Contact us today to learn more about the eFileCabinet system and how it can help your business.