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 govern medical records in the United States, along with multiple rules, regulations and standards.

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

In this article, we shall examine the length of time that doctors keep medical records and other similar queries that patients in the US most frequently ask.

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?

The retention period for medical records varies significantly among states, with many requiring that records be kept for at least 6 to 10 years after the patient’s last visit or for a certain period after the patient reaches the age of majority.

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.

In addition, the length of time a patient’s medical records are stored in the database 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.

Under HIPAA, patients have the right to access their medical records, but providers can charge a reasonable, cost-based fee for copying and mailing the records, not for accessing them digitally.

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.

Healthcare providers are required to keep records according to state laws, which can extend well beyond 10 years, especially for minors or as dictated by specific medical or legal requirements. Hence your medical history from 20 or more years ago is most likely to be incomplete.

Who Can View My Medical Records

Healthcare providers try 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.

Federal and state laws dictate the provisions for others to access your medical records, including government entities and law enforcement.

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

Medical records usually 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 can 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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