How Long Do Doctors Keep Medical Records?

How Long Do Doctors Keep Medical Records? – Overview

Medical records are extremely important to ensure proper patient care. They are also required for use in daily operations through health data management systems.

Multiple factors are governing medical records in the United States, along with multiple rules, regulations and standards.

As time goes by, the medical records only increase in volume and it sometimes becomes difficult to store and manage patient records by healthcare providers.

In this article, we shall see the duration for which doctors keep medical records and other similar queries most frequently asked by patients in the US.

How Long Are Medical Records Stored?

Have you ever wondered how long hospitals and clinics keep patient records stored? Have you ever thought about how long do your medical records stay in the healthcare system’s database?

On average, patient medical records are kept stored for around 5 to 10 years after the patient’s last treatment, discharge date or date of demise.

How Long Do Doctors Keep Medical Records

How long are medical records stored?

On the other hand, record data laws vary from state to state. The least amount of time which doctors are obliged to keep patient records stored varies depending on whether the medical records are being kept with private-practice doctors or in hospitals.

Apart from this, the length of time for which a patient’s medical records are stored in the database also depends on whether the patient is a minor or an adult.

How to Find Medical Records from Childhood?

It can be quite difficult to gain access to your health history records from childhood.

As per Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a patient holds the legal right to all their medical records for free, except for a minimal fee, to get their records printed and/or mailed to them.

However, the challenge lies in tracking your childhood medical records.

At times, the storage is not organized well, and there are varying protocols for data storage in different institutions, apart from other obstacles.

Most healthcare providers do not keep records that are more than 10 years old. Hence your medical history from 20 or more years ago is most likely to be incomplete.

Who Can View My Medical Records?

Healthcare providers make an effort to keep your medical information private from unauthorized persons.

Owing to HIPAA restrictions, security and privacy standards are well-regulated within the entire healthcare industry.

Doctors and your healthcare providers are allowed access to view your medical records. A loved one can also be given this permission. This is usually where the line for accessing your medical history details is drawn.

However, there are provisions under the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that allows others to view your medical records.

The regulation dictates that government entities and law enforcement agencies can access your medical records with a written application in case they are relevant to an ongoing investigation.

What is Included in Medical Records?

Usually, medical records contain details of your personal and health information. These generally include diagnoses, medical history, allergies, immunization dates and doctor’s notes on your treatment’s progress.

Your medical records may also contain information about lab test results, prescribed medications and billing details.

How are medical records shared?

Medical records are normally shared through electronic mediums today. These are usually shared between specialists, healthcare providers, pharmacists, medical diagnostic imaging departments, clinics and laboratories.

Every healthcare professional involved in your treatment and care gets allowed to view your medical history and record to ensure safe and consistent treatment.

What are personal health records?

Personal health records are a variety of medical records. These are patient-centric records that patients can access.

These records have details of the patient’s family medical history, immunization details, diagnoses, healthcare provider and medication information.


If you wish to gain access to your medical records, you can talk to your family physician or contact the relevant doctor at the hospital you underwent treatment.

Make sure to follow all state and federal protocols when applying to view your medical records.

See Also

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