Medical records

Rules and opinions

Frequently asked questions

Rules and opinions

  • Board Rule 540-X-9-.10 concerns medical records management, release of medical records, cost for reproducing medical records, and transfer or disposal of medical records. (Link is to Administrative Rules page; click "Alabama Board of Medical Examiners Administrative Rules," scroll down to 540-X-9)
  • Commission Rule 545-X-4-.09 concerns minimum standards for medical records.  (Link is to Administrative Rules page; click "Medical Licensure Commission Administrative Rules," scroll down to 545-X-4)
  • The American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has issued Opinions on Physician Records concerning availability of information to other physicians, access by non-treating medical staff, sale of a medical practice and retention of records.

Frequently asked questions - professionals (also see frequently asked questions - consumers)

Q: How long do I have to retain medical records?
A: The Board does not specify a particular time period because retention times may vary from practice to practice. The Board rule states records should be retained "for such period as may be necessary to treat the patient and for such additional time as may be required for medical-legal purposes." A good rule of thumb is ten years. If you are unsure, contact your malpractice insurance carrier.

Q: What if my practice uses EHRs (electronic health records)?
A: The same retention times apply to EHRs as well as paper records.

Q: Do I include copies of records from prior treatment providers?
A: While there is no specific rule, in general, a physician should transfer, with the patient's authorization, any medical information in the patient's record which is pertinent to the patient's medical history and/or to any ongoing course of treatment. Psychological, psychiatric and drug or alcohol treatment records should not be routinely forwarded.

Q:  What obligation does a third-party, such as a landlord, building owner, decedent’s estate, or business entity, have to retain patients’ medical records if the physician dies or is no longer licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy?
A: The Board’s jurisdiction extends only to licensed physicians. The Board recommends that third-parties who come into possession of medical records consult an attorney to ascertain the scope of any duty or obligation to retain the records or make them available to patients.

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