IT'S ALL FREE! Keep or Toss?

You're a new legal nurse consultant and you've already gotten a few cases.  You're starting to accumulate a bunch of medical records and they're taking up space.  How long should you keep the medical records?  When's the best time to toss them?  If you answered that you'd discard them when the case settled, you might be wrong.

Medical malpractice cases don't always settle.  The most common way for cases to close is through settlement, but there are different ways in which they end.  You need to be aware that those various types of endings mean that you might be able to dispose of the medical records in the case.

Don't automatically toss the records when you think the case is finished.  Discard the records only when the attorney tells you it's OK to throw them away.  You may have to keep the records even after the case ends.  That's because attorneys sometimes appeal trial verdicts and sometimes cases that were supposed to settle don't.  Also, if you're a defense expert in a case with multiple defendants, hold off disposing of the records for a few months after your case settles.  Occasionally, an attorney for another defendant will retain you since you already have the materials and know the case issues. 

Don't pitch the medical records just anywhere.  The best way to safeguard information in conformance to the HITECH Act and the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultant's Code of Ethics and Conduct is to shred the medical records.  If you can't or don't want to shred the documents yourself, be sure to locate a firm that specializes in document destruction for the medical field. 

Lastly, don't count on attorneys to let you know when to discard the medical records.  It's a good practice to contact the attorneys twice a year to review the status of the case.  Sometimes you'll learn that the law firm closed the case long ago.  And discussing the status of your cases with each attorney keeps your name fresh in their minds.

...Katy Jones