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Posted Date: July 20, 2017 By: Andrew Blau

Dental Records Retention and Destruction

Managing Records at a Dental Office

As with any business, document retention and destruction are two key factors in running a well-managed office. Managing a dental retention schedule and proper and timely destruction is critically important to avoiding excess accumulation of data, improving environmental impact, properly managing records, and securing protected health information.

The most common record-keeping errors, noted by the American Dental Association, include:

  • Undocumented treatment plans
  • Undocumented or not regularly updated health histories
  • Undocumented patient assessment

Incomplete documentation and a lack of organization are the primary record-keeping errors found in dental offices. A written dental record-keeping policy and records retention schedule that is easily understood and followed by all staff, can help to keep records organized and ensure proper retention. In addition, dental offices can more easily and systematically identify records that need to be destroyed, which can clear space of unnecessary documents, allowing for easier management of all documents and help to avoid record-keeping errors. There are several guidelines that may be followed for efficient dental records retention. Follow these steps to keep your dental practice from avoiding errors in documentation and to remain regulation-compliant.

Create a Dental Records Retention Schedule

A document management policy outlines a protocol for handling secure documents, including creation, management and proper disposal. A detailed policy is crucial to maintain information security across your business. In the case of any information breach or damage control situation, the proper protocol should be detailed and understood by all employees.

A crucial element to the proper destruction of documents is a record retention schedule. Retention periods and disposal method may vary by location, but the general format of the calendar can be arranged with this template.

In the healthcare industry, any patient-specific documentation must be handled according to HIPAA requirements in order to ensure privacy and security. However, HIPAA does not regulate retention of medical or dental schedules; this is mandated state-by-state. To create a records retention schedule for your dental practice, refer to your state dental records retention policy below:

State Retention Period State Ruling Organization
Alabama 2 years Alabama Dental Association
Alaska 4 years Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development
Arizona 6 years Arizona State Legislature
Arkansas 2 years Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners
California 7 years Dental Board of California
Colorado 7 years Colorado Dental Board
Connecticut 7 years Connecticut General Assembly
Delaware 7 years State of Delaware
Florida 4 years Florida Administrative Code
Georgia 10 years Georgia Board of Dentistry
Hawaii 7 years Hawaii Department of Accounting and General Services
Idaho 5 years Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
Illinois 10 years Illinois State Dental Society
Indiana 7 years Indiana General Assembly
Iowa 6 years State of Iowa
Kansas 10 years Kansas Dental Board
Kentucky 7 years Kentucky Legislative Research Commission
Louisiana 6 years Department of Health & Hospitals
Maine 11 years National Center for Biotechnology Information
Maryland 5 years Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners
Massachusetts 7 years Board of Registration in Dentistry
Michigan 10 years Michigan Dental Association
Minnesota 7 years Office of the Reviser of Statutes
Mississippi 7 years Dental Examiners of Mississippi
Missouri 7 years Missouri General Assembly
Montana 3 years Montana Dental Association
Nebraska 10 years Nebraska Dental Association
Nevada 5 years Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners
New Hampshire 7 years New Hampshire Dental Association
New Jersey 7 years New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs
New Mexico 6 years New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care
New York 6 years New York State Dentistry
North Carolina 10 years North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners
North Dakota 6 years North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners
Ohio No state ruling Ohio Dental Association
Oklahoma 7 years Oklahoma Board of Dentistry
Oregon 7 years Oregon Board of Dentistry
Pennsylvania 5 years Pennsylvania Dental Association
Rhode Island 5 years Board of Examiners in Dentistry
South Carolina 5 years South Carolina Legislative
South Dakota 10 years South Dakota Dental Association
Tennessee 5 years State of Tennessee Laws, Policies and Guides
Texas 5 years Texas State Board of Dental Examiners
Utah 5 years Utah Division of Occupation and Professional Licensing
Vermont 3 years Vermont State Archives and Record Administration
Virginia 2 years Virginia Board of Medicine
Washington 4 years Washington State Department of Health
West Virginia 7 years West Virginia Legislature
Wisconsin 10 years Wisconsin Dental Association
Wyoming 5 years Government Publishing Office

For patients using Medicare or Medicaid Services, records are required to be retained for at least five years for claims and billing purposes (as per The Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services requires that Medicare and Medicaid).

For documents other than dental records, the following retention and destruction methods should be adhered to:

Document Type Retention Period Disposal Method
Clinic appointment calendars 6 years Shred
Clinic schedules End of quarter Shred
Daily script journal 6 years Shred
Insurance billing records 6 years Shred
Patient billing records 6 years Shred
Patient charts 30 years Shred
Patient payment records 6 years Shred
Prescription records 6 years Shred
Refunds 6 years Shred
Treatment contracts 6 years Shred
Job applications 1 year Shred
Employee Benefit Plans 1 year Shred
Leave forms 3 years Shred
Employee identification (I-9) 4 years Shred
FICA payments 4 years Shred

These retention schedules are intended only as a guide. Before destroying any records, it is advisable to confer with your attorney, CPA, or other legal advisor.

Create a Dental Records Destruction Policy

The Department of Health and Human Services requires that “…covered entities must implement reasonable safeguards to limit incidental, and avoid prohibited, uses and disclosures of PHI, including in connection with the disposal of such information. In addition, the HIPAA Security Rule requires that covered entities implement policies and procedures to address the final disposition of electronic PHI and/or the hardware or electronic media on which it is stored, as well as to implement procedures for removal of electronic PHI from electronic media before the media are made available for re-use.”

In order to comply, records retention plans should include a clear policy for records disposal. Key terms include:

  • Proper handling of old prescription bottles in transparent bags and locked until retrieved by disposal company.
  • Proper destruction methods. Even seemingly unreadable documents must not be trashed or recycled, but rather shredded by a vendor trained and certified in HIPPA regulations regarding document destruction. This will ensure security of personal information will be properly destroyed, but will also remain secure in transit if necessary.
  • Destruction and purging of any hard drives containing personal health information.

All documents or hard drives that are awaiting destruction should be stored in secure, lockable, paper collection containers. Electronic records and hard drives must be destroyed as well in a timely manner and in accordance with HIPAA regulations.

Partnering with a fully, HIPAA-compliant, NAID certified shredding company is the best way to assure your documents are destroyed properly.

Choose a Professional Shredding Service

A trusted document disposal method is the equally-important counterpart to a document retention method. When the proper policies and regulations are understood, a company can make an informed decision on which professional shredding service they should partner with. A shredding company will specify if their services are compliant with the regulations specific to your industry.

The mobile and on-site shredding services offered by Shred One provide routine shredding based on any schedule of document management. The benefit of this shredding service is that the specific shredding schedule that a company policy dictates can be met routinely and efficiently.

Take these steps at your practice and keep you staff informed and empowered to implement the retention and destruction plans to ensure patient information security, reduce risk, and improve office organization.

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