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  • For how many years should we keep old medical records, including of tests and Xrays?

    Have a query about maintaining old medical records at home? Want to know for how many years should a person keep the records? Scroll through this page for answers from ISC experts and decide how much of the medical records to be stored.

    In an earlier query, I had enquired about disposing of old Xrays. In my opinion, there is no point in retaining such Xrays and other reports of a deceased person but what about otherwise?
    Recently a relative of mine has been doing his various health checkups and one of the Doctors enquired about a particular operation that was done about 9-10 years back and whether the reports were still there because although it was many years back, he wished to put it in the context of the current health reports. Hence, I was thinking about why we should keep those old medical records in the first place. I mean, how does it really matter now? My relative is very old and it is too much for him to hunt around for old records, so he just said he does not have those records.

    Some hospitals I think do maintain old records for at least ten years, not earlier than that, and we can request old records if required for a fee. What about at home? Should we keep all our blood test reports and other test reports, Xrays if any, records of operations/surgeries, etc which are more than five years old?
  • Answers

    6 Answers found.
  • The record related to medical reports is to be kept for some time. The duration for which, we have to keep the records depends on the test.

    1. Blood test, urine test and motion test reports can be kept till next time we get the same test done. But these routine tests doctor's will never accept old test reports and ask us to get it done again if there is any problem. But if we go to a new doctor he may want to see the last time test reports. So we can keep them till the next test is carried out. This is the procedure I follow. But there are no guidelines for this.

    2. Medical reports of certain tests are important and they should be kept for a long time. When there is a fracture and after the fracture is cured we will take X-ray again. That should be kept for a minimum of 5 years. I had a fracture on my leg in 1997. After curing the x-ray is taken and the bone got fixed properly. But after 8 months, I started feeling uneasy and I had gone to Orthopaedic Surgeon. He asked me to show the old x-Ray and I have shown to him and he took a fresh one and compared both and then he has done the treatment. Such specific reports are to be kept for at least 5 years.

    3. Sometimes some people will get the specific operation done and such records are very important. Such records we should keep life long. My father got operated and the doctor advised him to keep the reports and not to throw away. He says in future if there are any complications we may have to refer these records and then only the required treatment can be decided. So he specifically told my father to keep that file as it is. This happened 20 years back. He is still holding that file.

    The Individual has to decide based on the problem and the type of treatment he got. We have to ask the advice of the doctor also if the type of treatment we got had any long term effect and then we can decide how long we can keep.

    always confident

  • There is no hard and fast rule in this matter and many people keep the medical records in a file and just keep them for quite a long time. Practically we need not to keep the records for such a long period.

    What can be done is if the patient is suffering from some dreadful disease then those reports (only reports and not the ECG charts or USG images or X-rays or MRI images etc) can be maintained for the next round of check ups or specific courses like chemotherapy. Otherwise the routine test reports are not required to be kept. Only one set of last reports is to be kept for the reference of the doctor as well as for own reference so that we know that what vital parameters have changed in between. Many people go for periodic health check ups and it is a good practice to keep a summary or front page synopsis of those reports for future reference.

    Knowledge is power.

  • Every person for this query may vary and it cannot be put in black and white. There are many who has some disease that needs lifelong medication while others just need till the infection is cured so also the idea of keeping the records of the treatment. The best can be said depending upon factors like type od disease, age(whether the patient is an adult or a minor), allergies, etc as for some disease, we need our past history for better treatment while for some it's just a run-through of 2-5 years. While going through the internet to find a better answer to your query, I read this riddle which goes this way: "It is something that that has no legs but follows you through life, Some are short and some are long, It's not invisible and rarely see it. What is it? the answer is a medical record.

    • Usually, the medical records including tests, medical histories, diagnoses, immunization dates, allergies and Xrays should be kept from five to ten years after a patient's latest treatment, discharge or death.

    • Medical records are kept electronically i.e. in the form of digital form on the cloud as it can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and becomes easy to share at times.

    • Medical records either in paper or electronic form should be saved for around ten years for adults and in case of minors, at least two years after they reach the "age of majority or no less than thirteen years.

    • In case where a patient is not mentally competent, we need to retain the records permanently for future references.

    • In case if any legal action is pending from a patient or hospitals due to any reason, we need to save the pertinent records, even if retention deadlines is over and keep it till the legal formalities is not completed.

    “The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in." — Morrie Schwartz

  • My wife expired in 2015 but casually i have not destroyed any of her papers related to medical or parayana etc. Yesterday a situation arise to me in this connection. My brother in law asked me what medicine was referred to her by doctor for her chikingunia. I replied him by referring her papers. Though the doctors do ask fresh reports of xray, scan etc. we can compare with old records if we have. As modern trends helped us well we can keep copies of the same in our mail id and destroy the hard copies if we hesitate to keep.

  • As far as blood - reports are concerned in relation to complete blood count, liver function and kidney function test, lipid profile, thyroid profile, Hb1 AC test etc, we need to preserve the last report for the reference purpose in case an appointment has been secured with the specialist/ physician. The doctor would like to know the previous status.
    However, such reports are always changeable because of the body condition of the patient. It may either improve or detoriate depending upon several factors such as non adherence of timely consumption of medicines, its overdose or otherwise.
    Hence the best way is to retain the copy of the last blood - report and rest may be destroyed.
    However, such cases are not applicable for X - Ray, CT Scan, Bone - marrow tests etc.
    The concerned specialist or the Doctor would like to such reports even if there has been elapse of ten year or so. In case of bone - fracture, CT Scan of brain etc, in case the specialist suspects any abnormality, he would like to see the previous report though the sufficient time has elapsed.
    So it is better to collect the report in the electronic form so as to have convenience or otherwise keep the last blood reports and all relevant copies of X- Ray, CT scan etc for the further investigation to be made by specialist or the doctor.
    Keep a record of medication being consumed presently in the different disease with the latest record of changed medicines for the proper evaluation from the side of the specialists or the doctors.

  • There is no universal rule for keeping the medical documents as it varies depending upon the type of test, type of health issue, etc.
    1. The test report of regular check-ups like a blood test, sugar level test, etc should be kept the recent ones (if you are not diagnosed with any serious issue related to these reports).

    2. If a person is suffering from some health issues which require the tests after regular intervals, in that case, all the reports must be preserved. It helps the doctor to judge the improvement. It includes the problem related to blood pressure, blood sugar, thyroid, etc.

    3. In case of any surgery or operation, it is advised to keep the reports for life long as there is a possibility that he or she may face any problem related to that surgery in the future and at that time, the doctor may ask for these reports for reference.

    4. Test reports of pregnancy must be kept at least till you have a family plan.

    Keeping the medical reports also helps us in taking views of another doctor for second advice.
    But here I suggest that we should never try to take medication depending upon our old reports on our own. Although the reports may look the same, consulting a doctor is very important.


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