Record Retention Schedule and Destruction Management – Achieving Record Retention Best Practices Through Information Governance

Ann Meehan

Information governance (IG) can seem quite overwhelming when you consider that it addresses all types of information, on all types of media, across the entire organization. Before becoming overwhelmed and saying, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow,” consider prioritizing areas that will give you a large return on investment through cost savings, improved efficiencies, and reduced risk. The area that comes to mind is the organization’s record retention schedule and destruction management program.

A record retention schedule and destruction management program is a critical component of the information lifecycle and creating record retention best practices is crucial. The lifecycle of information addresses all aspects of the organization’s information from its creation and capture to its use and reporting and ultimately to its storage and disposition. The record retention schedule and destruction practices at your organization ensure that records and data are maintained for the timeframe required by federal and/or state regulations, as well as for business purposes.

A formalized, well thought out record retention schedule and destruction management program will yield the following results:

  • reduced cost by eliminating storage expenses where offsite storage is utilized

  • reduced cost, increased efficiencies, and increased productivity by eliminating staff time in storing, moving and searching for records in onsite storage locations

  • increased availability of valuable real estate when onsite storage locations are utilized

  • reduced risk in maintaining records beyond the time required by federal or state regulations and for business purposes

  • increased compliance with retention and destruction policies and procedures

Is a robust record retention schedule and destruction management program a best practice at your organization? Make sure you have record retention best practice in place.Consider the following key questions in evaluating your program:

  • Assigned accountability for records management:

    • Has someone been identified to manage and oversee records management activities across your organization?

    • Has responsibility been driven down to staff through education and monitoring?

  • A well-defined records retention schedule:

    • Does your organization have a RRS that is organization-wide?

    • Does your RRS cover all types of information, hardcopy and electronic, in key categories?

    • Is your RRS readily available to staff?

    • Is your RRS updated every 18 to 24 months with legal oversight?

  • Records management policies and procedures:

    • Do you have a records management policy and procedure that addresses oversight, requirements for storage, retention schedules, and practices for record destruction?

    • Does the policy and procedure reflect the date of review and approval?

    • Is education provided to staff so they understand the policy and procedure?

    • Is the policy and procedure available for all staff to access?

    • Is the policy and procedure, including RRS, consistently monitored to ensure compliance?

  • Records storage and disposition procedures:

    • Has a procedure for appropriate record storage been developed, including the capture of metadata for measuring disposition timelines?

    • Does the process outline the need to separate adult and pediatric records for ease in disposition?

    • Is it easy to follow so that staff knows when records are ready to be destroyed?

    • Are the processes required for record destruction clearly outlined?

    • Are you tracking record storage and destruction volumes via metrics?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” additional work is needed to ensure record retention best practices are in place. IG provides the formalized, collaborative infrastructure around best practices for record storage, retention and destruction. Best practices include vetted work flows and processes; documented policies and procedures; classifications of data fields using metadata management; established oversight and role-specific expectations; compliance monitoring; and metrics/key performance indicators.

A well-thought out record retention schedule and destruction management program will ensure the value of your organization’s information. It requires ongoing maintenance and upkeep, availability to all staff, and periodic auditing and monitoring. A record retention schedule and destruction management program will enable an organization to meet strategic goals and objectives through cost reductions; reduced risks, liability, and costs; and enhanced employee compliance. Given today’s healthcare challenges and need to “tighten our belts” even more than ever before, the time is right to take your records retention schedule and destruction program to the next level using the Iron Mountain®’ Policy Center solution.

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