Retaining Paperwork

January 1, 2005

We are attempting to reduce the amount of paper we have on hand until we are EMR-ready. What are the regulations for retaining encounter forms and originals of EOBs?

Question: We are attempting to reduce the amount of paper we have on hand until we are EMR-ready. What are the regulations for retaining encounter forms and originals of EOBs?

Answer: Regarding encounter forms, the IRS requires that the encounter form or other "originating document," such as a charge ticket from which a charge was generated, be retained for the audit period. The IRS can examine a tax return and make adjustments within three years from the date of its filing. This period increases to six years if the return contains a very large understatement of income. The period may be indefinite if fraud is suspected. Therefore, some malpractice carriers recommend retaining accounts receivable documents, bank statements, cancelled checks, and encounter forms for seven years.

Generally, practices retain EOBs for three to seven years.

You certainly should check with your malpractice carrier or attorney in case they have an opinion, too.

Keep in mind that you can scan them, usually, for easier storage.