Safe File Storage
To ensure their availability when needed, client records need to be stored in a way that protects them from water and fire. To protect client privacy, client records need to be secured from inappropriate access or loss.
Fire and Water Safety
One option is to use on-site, fire-safe, locking cabinets. However, as only insulated filing cabinets are fire-safe, this can be an expensive option. An alternative which can reduce long-term storage costs is to scan client records and store them off-site, in a fire-safe box, or on a remote secure server. If you use electronic storage, do not destroy the original paper charts for which you have filed an incident report. To avoid accidental loss of charts, send a copy, not the original, to be electronically converted.
In the past, midwifery practices have experienced loss or theft of personal health information (e.g., theft of a safe containing discs with digital client records). Thefts of this nature necessitate disclosure of the information to the privacy commissioner and to clients, unless the records were encrypted. Such experiences highlight the importance of multiple layers of security such as encryption of stored data, placing lock boxes and safes inside secured areas of the clinic space, and keeping them out of site. When converting paper charts to electronic storage, confirm with whatever company you hire to do the work that CDs and hard drives are encrypted and password protected.
Paper records are also susceptible to loss or theft, though typically this would involve fewer records. Midwives should also consider their privacy obligations by limiting what client information is removed from the clinic (e.g., on client lists, charts) and how those records are secured out of the clinic.
Practices also need to be confident that records will be available when needed. The AOM has developed a template record retention protocol (on the protocol page under "Financial") reflecting best practices and legal obligations.