Keeping your archived medical documents in decent, readable condition long-term can be tricky. If you don't have dedicated facilities and expertise on-site, it can be hard to know where to start. Over the years, paper, card, and cellophane can become brittle, smudged, eaten away, or stained, obscuring legibility. While scanning and digitisation can extend the life of these physical documents, electronic files themselves can fall prey to accidental deletion, corruption, and hard drive failure.
Mandatory disposal deadlines pose problems, too - it can be surprisingly hard to keep track of yearly timetables to make sure something is truly gone, forever. Here's a short guide to avoiding these common document retention pitfalls and putting together a safe, legal, and secure medical archive that can stand the test of time.
Avoid Ad Hoc Storage Onsite
Due to financial, time, or space restraints, many medical practices adopt an ‘ad hoc’ approach to archived files. In practice, this means files accumulating in storage boxes, filing cabinets and cupboards, without a central plan or retention strategy.
Try to avoid doing this for your long-term patient records. As well as the risk of theft, unauthorised access, and fraud, poorly ventilated spaces are prone to damp, which can damage paper records. It can make your files hard to access quickly if you suddenly need them again for any reason. Off-site storage containers can also legally be emptied without your knowledge if you don't renew your lease. The solution? Build your own secure, climate-controlled archive space behind a locked door or invest in accredited third-party storage and protection (as with CAS Ltd.).
Invest In Solid Digital Defences
Digital storage devices are vulnerable to hacks, data loss, and hardware failure. It's worth paying for a provider who can deliver round-the-clock network monitoring, up-to-date firewalls and security checks, and per-account controlled access. This is doubly important if you're going to be using open-cloud platforms and automatic archiving backups.
Use Secure, Decent-Quality Boxes, Shelving, And Racks
A surprising amount of irreversible damage to paper records comes from handling, storing, and packing errors during shipping, use, and storage. Even if you're transporting documents to a third-party warehouse, make sure they're tightly spaced and held in high-quality, sturdy, waterproof containers.
Don't Leave Your Documents Exposed To The Elements
When storing archived documents onsite, remember to seal off any exposed access points, add insulation, limit UV exposure, and control the humidity levels inside the room. Left unchecked, all these factors can cause rapid decays in paper record quality.
Alternatively, talk to a specialist medical records storage provider, such as CAS. Document storage companies (such as us) have everything ready to go. They'll have tightly controlled space set aside for particularly fragile, sensitive, or aged documents, too.
Remember Your Document Retention Schedules (DRS) And Document Destruction Schedule (DDS)
Set up regular reminders and flags to trigger automatically at critical points in time and keep your 'control' paperwork (the DRS and DDS documents themselves) in an easily reachable location. Appoint dedicated, named data protection officers to ensure full compliance, and consider using a medical document management specialist, such as CAS, to administer document access and destruction on your behalf.
Backup Your Documents
It’s often advisable to create duplicates of vital archive material that you can access at short notice. As long as you keep data protection safeguards in place, you're free to use your duplicate copies until the retention deadline expires. Using a dual-format digital/physical storage strategy can be a great way to mitigate the risks of unexpected damage or data loss.
Professional Medical Archiving Services From CAS Ltd
At CAS, we've got the expertise, space, and compliance knowledge to meet all your medical records storage, access, and scheduled deletion requirements. Please get in touch today to find out more.
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