At a minimum, pediatric medical records should be retained for 10 years or the age of majority plus the applicable state statute of limitations (time to file a lawsuit), whichever is longer. In some states, the statute of limitations does not start until the patient turns 18. So in a state with a two-year statute of limitations, a malpractice case related to newborn care could be filed 20 years after delivery, meaning newborn records need to be kept at least 20 years. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, medical record retention may be dictated by state law, federal regulation or even the Joint Commission.
If a lawsuit is filed and the medical records have been destroyed, it will be hard to defend the care provided. Therefore, medical records must be kept for at least as long as there is a possibility of a malpractice lawsuit. In fact, many medical liability insurers stipulate how long the physicians they insure should keep patient charts. In addition to state laws, pediatricians should check with their malpractice insurers to make sure their patient records are available as long as the insurance carrier says they need to be.
Source: P & L by Jon Fanaroff, MD, JD, FAAP March 2016