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Q: If we have converted our patient charts to Electronic Health Records system, are we legally able to discard the old paper charts immediately or is there a period of time we must hold onto them?

A: The Public Health Code, MCL 333.16213, requires ODs to keep patient records a minimum of 7 years, or longer if required by another law.  A record is “a full and complete record of tests and examinations performed, observations made, and treatments provided.”  Whether you can shred those records depends on whether the new EHR system has all of that information going back at least 7 years. 

Some practices did not transfer their existing records, they just kept the paper going back at least 7 years and started new electronic records.  Other practices may have transferred some records fully, but not others.  Each OD needs to understand what is in their electronic system and whether it goes back at least 7 years.  If the electronic system is not a complete record, those paper files should be kept until at least 7 years after the most recent entry.

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