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DATE: 5/2/2005
What To Do With Old Medical Records

Scottsdale, Ariz. - Recent media coverage of medical records found in a dumpster behind a Phoenix doctor's office has led to questions from the public and from doctors about what to do with old files. The concern is that someone might use the information for identity theft.

State law requires doctors to retain the medical records of their adult patients until six years after the last date of medical treatment or care. For juveniles, doctors must keep their records until six years after the patient turns 18.

If a medical practice can legally dispose of old medical records, meaning they meet the requirements mentioned above, the appropriate method of disposal is shredding to protect the confidentiality of patients' personal information. There are companies that will collect the old records and shred them if a doctor doesn't have the staff to destroy them at his office.

In a case where medical records are found intact and available in a dumpster, the Arizona Medical Board can file a complaint against the physician who threw them out.