Managing an Effective Records Retention Process in Your Healthcare Practice
When you get right down to it, the past two years have been exhausting for businesses and medical practices. COVID-19 has put massive pressure on countless organizations, but virtually none more than those involved in health care.
Some jobs can - thankfully - be performed remotely. Others cannot. Either way, the pandemic has meant you've had to make countless changes to how you work.
This has occurred in numerous areas, including initial consultations and care provision. It has also happened in many back-office processes, including records retention. When done right, you can move your records retention process to the cloud. Moving this process to an electronic model can lead to many improvements in your business. HR for Health can help your practice with just that.
Read on to determine how much an effective process can help your business.
First, it is vital that you determine what records you need actually to maintain. This includes, at a minimum, the following:
- Tax paperwork and proof of citizenship paperwork, such as W-2s or I-9s
- Onboarding and offboarding documentation
- Contact information, including address, social security number, direct deposit information, etc.
- Payroll records
- Emergency contact information
- Employee evaluations, including any documented employee problems that could lead to a work termination
- Certifications, licenses, or any other proof that the individual in question is qualified to perform the work they have been hired to perform
Remember that each state may have different requirements for what paperwork needs to be maintained and for how long. Furthermore, different state and local governments may need access to different pieces of documentation at other times.
As an employer, you are responsible for finding out what paperwork you must keep, maintaining up-to-date forms, and cooperating when you are legally required to furnish any documentation. Alternatively, you can hire an organization - like HR for Health - to manage this process for you. HR for Health’s software can help you keep track of what paperwork you need and how often it has to be updated.
Create a Schedule
You'll need to ensure you have an accurate and up-to-date schedule when it comes to record retention. This schedule should contain:
- What records need to be updated, and when
- When documents can be destroyed
- How often do you need to check with an employee to see if they need information updated
- How often do you need to submit or resubmit paperwork to the government
This schedule should be easily accessible to you, and you must ensure that you stick to it regarding record retention. This is another reason why you may want to consider electronic storage. If managed properly, you can use an electronic records retention process to remind you exactly when to update paperwork.
The need for a schedule can be abrogated by using a third party to help you manage your record retention. For example, HR for Health can keep an eye on changing local, state, and federal regulations, keeping your forms updated. This allows you to save time and money while also remaining compliant.
Remember, your employee records contain a slew of sensitive personal information. This includes contact information, performance evaluation, and social security numbers. As such, you need to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to these files. Failure to do so could open you up to liability.
If you maintain physical records, you must have them under a literal lock and key. Maintaining electronic records makes the process easier: You can protect the information with a username and password.
Electronic records also come with another added benefit, as you can allow someone to access only the relevant portions of employee records that they may need to access. You can also revoke or grant access on an as-needed basis by simply managing your account settings. For example, you can control access using the administrative settings of HR for Health’s records software.
Maintain Separate Files
Your best bet on employee paperwork is to maintain separate files for each employee. Doing so comes with many benefits:
- Makes it easier to find the records you want
- Makes it easier to dispose of the records you want
- Enables more controlled access
- Can control which supervisors can see what records and prevent someone from accidentally seeing something they shouldn't
This means you will need to take the time to develop a sorting system that enables such record separation. A physical system can manage this, but you must ensure that you properly control access to the system to maintain the confidentiality of such records.
Regarding confidentiality, it is vitally important that medical records or information be housed in a separate location from personnel records. This can ensure that this susceptible data has enhanced privacy protections. If you use HR for Health’s records software, you can create additional safeguards, including limiting access to this information.
Separation of Employment Documents
Sometimes you have to terminate an employee or an employee quits. When this happens, you must ensure that you maintain appropriate documentation. This would include a termination letter with the reasons for the separation, documentation that an employee was warned about their break, and when their pay or benefits were terminated.
You'll also want to ensure that you maintain this paperwork as long as you are legally required. This can help guard against a lawsuit.
If you need assistance with termination, including template termination letters, you can check out our termination/off-boarding checklist.
Other Types of Records
The above records are good examples of the paperwork you must maintain on file. However, there are often extensive batches of paperwork you may also need to keep on file. It's difficult to say what they are, as they may alter from practice to practice. However, one document that many practices are now required to maintain are vaccination records for employees. These records must be maintained in a file separate from other employee personnel records because they are considered medical documents, and regulatory requirements impose this requirement to separate medical records from other personnel files.
To determine the necessary paperwork, you can check relevant governmental authorities (including your state and local government) and the appropriate medical boards that manage your field.
Alternatively, you can work with an outside vendor - like HR for Health - with extensive experience in the medical field and related areas. Firms like HR for Health can help you determine all the records you need to keep. We watch all updates for our clients and ensure that you have appropriate and controlled access to these records.
Purge and Improve
Undoubtedly, you must maintain records for a certain period, often years after an employee leaves your practice. However, you don't need to keep records of employees who left your company decades ago. Make sure to periodically check these records against government requirements to know when you can dispose of files that have reached the max retention period. If it is safe to do so, destroy these records by either shredding them or deleting the files.
From there, check out your record retention system, and see if there are better ways to sort or organize your files. This can make a big difference in protecting access to your records.
As you can see, the electronic storage of your records offers many benefits. You can automatically delete files, control access, and set electronic reminders when paperwork needs to be updated or improved. You can also store personnel documents related to performance documentation, including performance reviews, violations/write-ups, and general notes. Electronic storage has some associated expenses, which are unquestionably worth incurring.
However, remember that your electronic storage system must still be legally compliant with all applicable laws. As such, using outside software established and tested for compliance is often easier. HR for Health already has software that can help ensure compliance with all laws and privacy controls.
How HR for Health Can Help
There are many ways to improve your records retention process. Letting HR for Health help can make a significant difference in this area of your practice. You can move all employment records to secure storage in the cloud by using HR for Health to improve your records retention process. This means your medical, dental, or optometrist practice can be confident that you can access your important HR paperwork - and that no one else can.
Want to learn more? Contact HR for Health today, and let us schedule a demo on how we can add to your existing HR structures, freeing you up for more time to practice healthcare.