A custodian of records bares the responsibility of safeguarding records for the duration they are required to be protected, according to law. This may apply to paper files or electronic records. Different types of files vary in the length of time they must be preserved to meet legal requirements imposed by the federal or state governments.
Custodian of Records Responsibilities
In the case of medical records, aside from maintaining the integrity of the files, a records custodian must protect the privacy of the individual according to HIPAA standards (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). HIPAA applies federal standards of privacy for the patient, ensuring no medical information is given out without the patient’s consent.
Additionally, paper, or digital records must be protected for periods of time indicated by law to ensure patient access if said patient has not already requested copies prior to the closing of the practice. The custodian will handle requests from the patient, physicians, family, or court as indicated by the patient’s consent.
Who can be a custodian of records?
Anyone appointed or deemed responsible for the care of records can be a custodian of records.
There are several different reasons why preserving medical records is important:
- Decisions regarding future treatment of a patient may rely on the medical history contained within that patient’s medical files. Files need to be available for the patient or another treating physician to make educated decisions regarding that patient’s care.
- If there is a lawsuit, the patient’s medical records, hospital charts or business records may be required as evidence. When requested by a court, the custodian of records may certify the provision of complete records in lieu of making a court appearance.
Custodian of Medical Records
Upon closure of a physician’s office or medical facility, custody of medical records must be transferred to a responsible party that will comply with requests and regulations.
HarborSafe is well-versed in patient record storage and preservation. For those offices utilizing remote health record access, the information is easily transferred and protected from security breaches; however, HarborSafe also provide safe storage for physical files. Whether your office works with paper or digital files, rest assured they will be safeguarded in accordance with your state’s requirements.
Medical Records Releasing
Should a patient visit a specialist years following the closure of his original specialist’s office, it stands to reason the new specialist would want to review all historical patient records for that patient. A patient may not recall the names of medications prescribed or be familiar with conditions he presented that indicated his course of treatment. In this case, his new specialist would request he complete a consent form to acquire a copy of his medical records. That request would be referred to the physician’s medical records custodian.