Medical records are archived when the facility or doctor’s office is no longer actively caring for the patient.
Here are three methods of archiving:
1. On-site: The records can be merely stored in files or boxes on site. There is a risk that the records could be destroyed by fire or flood, however the office would generally not be held responsible for any record destruction unless negligence were involved.
On-site storage is also possible using electronic media. For example, the records could be optically scanned and stored in two flash drives, one of which is on site, the other elsewhere.
2. Off-site storage. This is the more common choice because space in the doctor’s office is generally limited. Paper records can be stored much as they would be on site. More commonly, however, records themselves are sent for scanning and off-site storage, or a scanning service can come to the facility or office to do the scans. The use of microfilm systems is generally obsolete.
3. Storage on the Internet: There are many Internet storage services. All of them involve providing a secured site where the digital records (presuming the records have already been scanned) are stored and accessible only by the health provider or facility, protected by firewalls and passwords. A modern variation of Internet storage uses the “cloud”. The cloud is a space on the Internet accessible by a subscriber to store her data.
As a general comment, it is best to have records scanned and archived in digital form such that it is easy to store the information in more than one place, hence protecting from fire and flood. Also, electronic data are much easier to access than paper records.
There are many off-site electronic archiving companies, and specific details of the procedures are available at their web sites.