Setting New Standards for a New Profession – Your Chance to Help

As announced to AdvoConnection’s members last week, we have been working on a prescribed process for advocates who find it necessary to terminate their work with a client – in effect, to “divorce” that client, professionally, legally, and with the least amount of difficulty for both parties. (Members will find access to that protocol in this coming week’s Monday Member Mail.)

One step in the process is the recommendation about sharing the notes you’ve kept with the client you’re divorcing, and the question about whether or not you, as the professional patient advocate, should be keeping those notes after you have terminated the relationship with the client, and if so, for what period of time.

(Please note – I’m talking about the notes and records YOU keep – not medical records which are being kept by their medical providers. You may choose to keep those, too – but here we focus only on your own notes.)

So that’s the question – how long, if at all, should private health advocates keep those notes?

Medical providers, including doctors and hospitals, have state laws that govern how long they must keep a patient’s records. There’s a range of time frames – from six years to 10 years, or sometimes longer depending on the patient’s ongoing treatment needs. Pediatricians are usually required to keep records until a patient turns 19. But in all cases, the amount of time is set in stone so there are no questions about keeping them.

So who is going to create the standard for record retention for private health and patient advocates? You are! Since you, the readers of this blog, are the people doing the work, you are going to be the ones to decide – early in this profession – what makes sense.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it before. Maybe the topic has been covered in a class or workshop you have taken. This is your opportunity to share your opinion and be a part of the team that creates a standard that, I suspect, will last as long as the career of private patient advocacy does.

Please take this poll. If you have additional thoughts, or would like to explain your answer, please do so in the comments below. Whatever you decide is what the recommendation – the new standard – will be.

The poll will close on April 14. You can vote only once but you may comment all you like.

What do you think the note-taking standard should be?

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3 thoughts on “Setting New Standards for a New Profession – Your Chance to Help”

  1. Trish,

    Great topic. In looking over business retention guidelines for other professions, such as social wokers and lawyers there is little overlap in the guidance offered.

    For a Health Champion client, we keep records 7 years for adult clients. Clients may return to us for additional assistance; they may have issues down the road with their health and most importantly there is the issue of professional liability to consider.

    We have records stored hard copy and electronically with multiple backup systems. We have often returned medical records to clients after a mutual agreement that a case in closed.

    Hope this is helpful to others.
    Ida Schnipper

  2. Bert Bergland, D.O.

    While it is generally understood patient advocates do not establish a classic relationship equivalent to that of a doctor-patient, there exists a certain professional/client relationship that is or will become the potential target for less than scrupulous attorneys, particularly if they see a chance for yet another realm of law suit revenue. Call me cynical, but only the foolish trust the legal profession.

    I like Gina’s suggestion. Put the information in your client agreement so that it is understood and agreed to up front. Then, given the enormous burden retaining records truly is (I know, I retired from active medical practice and kept records for 7 years, hauling dozens of boxes from one place of residence to another through four major moves), the cost to maintain, move, and finally dispose of such sensitive information was not only annoying, but very expensive.

    For that reason, and because most statue of limitations are 2 years or less, I voted for 3 years only because the 2 year option was not offered in the survey. What we advocates need is a software that is appropriate for our needs (EMRs are not focused to us).

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