The American Hospital Information Management Association recommends retaining adults' medical records for 10 years after the most recent doctor or hospital visit and minors' records until the "age of majority" (usually 18) plus the statute of limitations. It also recommends keeping fetal heart rate monitor records for 10 years after the age of majority and diagnostic images such as x-rays and CT scans for five years. The birth, death and surgery registers and master patient index should be kept permanently.
Federal requirements for retaining hospital patient records are extensive. Examples of record retention times include three years for abortions and related services, six years for rural health clinics and critical access hospitals, five years after discharge for outpatient rehabilitation, 75 years for military veterans and five years for home health agencies.
State Laws and Regulations
State laws and regulations vary and are enforced by the public health or similar department.
Hospital policies on retention of patient records are based upon American Hospital Information Management Association recommendations, federal requirements and state laws or regulations.