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Who is responsible for patient records? Practice or treating doctor?

June 21, 2016

Question:

Hi Jennifer,

I work part-time as an Associate in a multi-specialty dental practice. I specialize in pediatric dentistry so most of the patient records will have to be kept until the child is 22 years of age. But am I responsible or the principals of the practice responsible for the child's records keeping? All dental work is billed under the practice. I am only the provider of service. Do I need to keep copies if I leave the practice?

Thanks

Dr W.

Answer:

Dr. W, you have not specified whether you are classified as an independent contractor or employee.  Let's start under the assumption you are an employee. Here, the assumption is the records are the responsibility of the practice - with the practice as custodian of the records. Typically if you have a proper employment agreement (which is highly recommended), your agreement will explicitly state the aforementioned, and go further by prohibiting you from taking records outside the practice while or after you are done working.  If you are an independent contractor, the scenario can get a bit trickier.  I can easily see you being the custodian of the records in this instance, in which case you would be responsible for maintaining.  Even here, as an independent, however, you should not be guessing. Make sure to delineate clearly in your agreement with the practice who will serve as custodian.  If you are not the custodian and the patient is the patient of the practice, with the practice service as custodian of the record, this is just one more factor that may be pointing towards you being an employee as opposed to an independent contractor (under the IRS test). 

 

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