Physicians: Abandoning medical records can get you in trouble

The Florida Board of Medicine recently announced that there has been an increase in the number of reports concerning abandoned medical records. Physicians are either closing or relocating their practices and no longer caring for a certain population of patients.

Although there are rules and statutes in place that govern the amount of time physicians must retain medical records, many are failing to abide. As a result, they can face disciplinary action.

Rule 64B8-10.002., sets forth standards which, if not met, will constitute a violation of Section 456.058, Florida Statutes, and will subject the physician to disciplinary proceedings by the Department of Health. Physicians should retain records as long as needed, not only to serve and protect patients, but also to protect themselves against adverse actions.

If you close or relocate your practice, patients must be notified through the publication of an announcement in the newspaper of greatest general circulation in each county in which the physician practices or practiced and in a local newspaper that serves the immediate practice area. The notice must be published once a week for four consecutive weeks and it must include an address at which the records can be obtained. In addition, although not required, physicians might consider posting a notice in their office in the weeks leading up to a move.

If a physician is deceased, the medical records must be retained by the executor, administrator, personal representative or survivor of the physician for a period of at least two years from the time of death. If a physician relocates, medical records must be retained for a period of at least five years from the last patient contact.

Physicians should retain such records not only for their patients, but to protect themselves should they become the target of malpractice litigation.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale represents and defends healthcare professionals facing licensing disciplinary actions. We can assist clients with negotiations, attend settlement conferences and find ways to mitigate damage.

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