Your business has been running smoothly for the last decade. You have doubled in size, even hired a few more employees, and your workflow has been steady. As a result of all that hard work, you have also increased your customer database. As your clientele continues to grow, so does the accompanying paper trail. You have been managing your records successfully by using a business records management company which in return, has been keeping your company intact, organized, safe and secure. But how do you know when it’s the right time to step in and start reducing the years of collected archives?
Many companies don’t think about this until the business has been bought out by another company or the business has closed its doors for good. Most of the time it’s the office manager who finally wakes up and realizes it’s time to put the brakes on and start thinking about how the company should comply with strict regulations set forth by HIPAA, FACTA, HITECH, PHI, GLB, etc. The first step your business needs to take in this process is to put together a strong retention schedule.
A retention schedule (also known as a retention period) identifies the duration of time for which the information should be maintained or “retained,” irrespective of format (paper, electronic or other). The retention schedule is highly dependent on the type of record. Typically, IRS records should be kept around 7 years, medical records should be around 7 – 10 years, and pediatric records could be up to 25 years. We strongly recommend that you consult with your legal advisors to determine the exact length of time prior to any destruction of your records.
Here are the steps you should follow to set up and follow through with your retention schedule:
- First, consult with your legal advisors to determine the best retention period that protects you and your business.
- Create a Retention Policy that governs the workflow of your office so that everyone is on board.
- Track your business record archives with a well-managed database system.
- If your company already uses a business records company, ask them to provide you with an Inventory Report. This should help expedite the process. Stevens & Stevens provides Inventory Reports and will never destroy records unless we have received written authorization from an authorized person in your office.
- Decide how you want to get rid of all your paper records. Some businesses such as CPA firms return files back to their original destination – “The Customer.” In most cases, it’s your own responsibility to determine a method that is compliant and keeps up with the current regulations for your industry.
- Set forth the effort to purge out your records on a yearly basis.
A retention schedule doesn’t take much time to set up, but it will save time and headaches down the road. Just be sure to use a document shredding vendor that is AAA NAID Certified, like Stevens & Stevens, to ensure your information that is regularly being destroyed is also being securely destroyed.