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How long to doctors/facilities have to keep medical records in California?

North Hollywood, CA |

I saw a doctor in August 2012. I need a copy of the records, and was told they don't have them anymore! For some reason I thought there was a requirement to keep them, but maybe I was thinking of tax returns.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

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Attorney answers 3


Send them a written request for the medical records along with a HIPAA authorization.


I suggest you start with the State Medical Board site:

I also saw this from an insurance carrier's web site: For the most part, state and federal laws regarding mandatory record retention time frames apply to hospitals or similar facilities rather than to a physician’s clinic. The Medicare Conditions of Participation (COP) require hospitals to retain records for five years (six years for critical access hospitals), whereas OSHA requires an employer to retain medical records for 30 years for employees who have been exposed to toxic substances and harmful agents. HIPAA privacy regulations have a six-year retention requirement, which follows the federal statute for limitations for civil penalties


Hmmm, this is very odd, typically, the length of time physicians keep records depends on two factors, the statute of limitations (usually two or three years) and the type of payer involved.

I would suggest making a formal request in writing for your records; ask them for their policy.

I am licensed in New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and therefore any discussion of issues related to other states must considered within that context. In addition, my comments are not intended to create a legal representation but merely to respond to the limited facts presented by the question. Any opinion herein is not meant as a precise statement of legal rights or as a recommendation of any particular course of action. A more complete legal review can be obtained through local counsel.

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