Medical Record Retention and Protection

On average, PCMS receives two to three phone calls a week from doctors’ offices or individuals requesting assistance locating patient medical records. A majority of our phone calls are from rural communities, with some local and some from other states like one recently from Utah.

A major reason for the inability to locate medical records appears to be doctors closing practices unexpectedly and not notifying patients beforehand, also known as “patient abandonment.” While most of the doctors we’ve been able to locate have been diligently following the Colorado Medical Board’s policy for medical record retention and protection, some may need a refresher. You can find the policy below.  

In the past, PCMS maintained a spreadsheet of practices closing -- physician’s last name, where the medical records were stored, and who to contact -- but unfortunately the last update was in 2012. Nonetheless, to help assist providers and individuals with locating patient medical records, PCMS will again keep an updated list of information on our website, which can be accessed in the event of a licensee’s disability, death or discontinuation of practice or ceasing to provide medical care to patients.

Please use the Contact Us portal on this site to let us know if you would like to be added to the list and how your patients can access their records, and/or you know of a provider who would like to be on the list and needs help ensuring patient medical records are easy to locate according to policy.

POLICY: The Colorado Medical Board has adopted the following guidelines pertaining to the retention and release of medical records (40-7, p53).

I. Medical Record Retention and Protection

  1. Written Plan to Ensure Security of Patient Medical Records
    1. Pursuant to 12-36- 140 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (“C.R.S.”), each licensed physician and physician assistant (“licensee”) must develop a written plan to ensure the security of patient records.
    2. A licensee shall attest at the time of license renewal that he or she has developed a plan in compliance with section 12-36-140, C.R.S.
  2. Notice to Patients Regarding Written Plan

    A licensee shall provide written notice to each patient detailing the method by which the patient may access or obtain his or her medical records in the event the licensee dies, retires or otherwise ceases to provide medical care to patients.
     
  3. Retention Period
    1. The Board recommends retaining all patient records for a minimum of seven years after the last date of treatment or seven years after the patient reaches age 18 -- whichever occurs later.
    2. In case of litigation or medical board investigation, records must be retained until resolution of the matter or seven years after last date of treatment or seven years after the patient reaches age 18 -- whichever occurs later.
  4. Disability, Death or Discontinuation of Practice
    1. At the time of discontinuation of practice, patients should be notified and instructed to submit a written authorization/release if they wish their records transferred to another provider. Records should be retained after discontinuation of practice using the guidelines above.
    2. In the event of disability or death, it is the board’s expectation that associations, specialty societies, malpractice carriers, and Colorado practitioners assist in the distribution of medical records in accordance with the disabled/deceased providers’ written plan to ensure security of patient records as defined in section I,A of this policy. Under no circumstances will the medical board take possession of the records or assume responsibility for record security or distribution.