Managing Document Retention in Professional Services

After a rewarding 35-year career as a psychotherapist specializing in individual, marriage and family therapy, Mark Hillman, Ph.D. decided to close his private practice. Today, Dr. Hillman remains energetic and continues his successful personal and executive coaching, corporate training, and organizational development consultancy.

The Challenge

Even though the psychotherapy practice was no longer active, Dr. Hillman needed a solution to help meet regulatory compliance requirements for all patient records. State medical record laws vary widely as do the options on how to meet these requirements. In the case of minor patients, the retention clock starts after they reach the age of 18.

Dr. Hillman is not alone with retention issues. Most businesses and professionals must observe specific document retention requirements. Required retention periods can vary for each kind of document and by state. Seven years is typical, but 30 years or permanent is even possible.

Sample retention periods across multiple industries:

  • Bank Statements and deposit slips – 7 years
  • Sales and work orders – 7 years
  • General Ledger – Permanently
  • Accident reports and settled claims – 6 years after settlement
  • Employment application – 2 years from date of termination
  • Safety, chemical and toxic exposure records – 30 years
  • Construction project documents – 11 years

Just knowing what to retain and for how long is a challenge. Some organizations maintain policy documents just to keep track of their retention requirements. The Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) developed the comprehensive records retention grid including the related legal citations.

Going to the other end of the spectrum is not having any retention policy. It’s common for businesses to keep everything, just to be sure they satisfy the laws without actually having to deal with them. While this is a simple solution, it is costly and could result in preserving potentially damaging evidence in subpoenaed records. Without a proper document retention policy, tens of thousands of superfluous documents can be saved indefinitely. These documents are costly to keep and needlessly add to the number of documents sorted and reviewed in the context of a lawsuit. Storing files for lengthy periods of time also increases the risk they can be taken out of their original context and used against one in court.

In addition to retaining documents, it is just as important to identify and destroy documents once the retention period is satisfied. According to Andrew Lee of JonesWalker, 93 percent of business documents never make it to paper, and many of those remain on company computers indefinitely.

The Solution

Dr. Hillman’s practice was primarily paper based and he was looking for an alternative to moving 7 large fireproof medical record storage cabinets to his home to satisfy retention laws. Through his ties with the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Hillman connected with Howard Gross at eBizDocs. After discussing all the options, a paperless solution was the clear winner. Using eBizDocs’ conversion services all patient records were quickly scanned and retained as pdfs.

The Result

Going paperless eliminated the need for moving 7 large filing cabinets and made the retention process neat and efficient. Dr. Hillman is so impressed with going paperless, he incorporated the concept into his coaching and organizational development curriculum. “eBizDocs really opened my eyes to the benefits of going paperless,” said Hillman, “when I see a client still performing manual paper processes, I’m compelled to educate them about paperless. Managing the document retention process is just the beginning.” The eBizDocs document management solution also supports automating the flow of documents through the organization as rules based or manual workflows. Enforcing standardized document creation and filing is simple with built in naming, security, and retention features.

Dr. Hillman tells his executive coaching clients document retention laws was the driving force behind his need for a paperless solution, but any organization challenged with running out of space, meeting compliance, maximizing efficiency, or simply wanting to reduce costs associated with managing physical documents will see immediate benefit and a rapid return on investment (ROI) by adding a document management solution.

Businesses sold or merged with another business maintain a higher value by having a document management solution in place. There is tremendous value in being able to transition all business documents in a neat and tidy fashion rather than handing over rooms of boxes and filing cabinets filled with unorganized files. Dr. Hillmans advice is to go paperless now. The business will enjoy the benefits while in operation and it adds value when an exit strategy is put in motion.

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About eBizDocs

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