Keeping up with federal government record retention guidelines can be tricky for any organization. Even one that prides itself on careful organization and documentation. The changes of laws, special circumstances involved in certain scenarios, and unique complications arising from digital record keeping and other technologies, all make it tough for organizations to figure out what to do with its hard and digital copies. We suggest that you follow the below guidelines for best and most efficient record retention practices. Be sure to review your record retention schedule and plan with a qualified attorney.
Setting up formatting of your record retention schedule that’s user-friendly, viable for your day-to-day operations, and wholly compliant with all relevant federal guidelines is only the first of many challenges you’ll need to take on. It’s also important to keep best practices and ethical considerations in mind when you’re developing your schedule and plan. Mistakes can be made, which aren’t directly in violation of any record keeping guidelines may still result in undesirable consequences, such as severe fines.
Understanding what you can and cannot shred and how you must go about it, is crucial to maintaining full compliance with federal retention guidelines. Many forms of shredding used for less secure documentation offers immense security risks, which may be unacceptable for various types of documents. If you’re using a third-party vendor/business for document destruction, make sure they’re taking all appropriate measures to maintain privacy and confidentiality as required by law and general best practices. For example, driving your documents to a recycling plant in someone’s back seat then tossing them into a pile to be eventually destroyed, probably isn’t in keeping with guidelines.
Federal guidelines change over time, making it a challenge to keep up-to-date over time, especially if you don’t retrain your team on a regular basis. For organizations dealing with multiple document types governed by different rule sets, it can be even more complex. For example, a medical facility handling both medical records and financial records can benefit from working with an external partner familiar with the different sets of rules governing each of those document types.
Developing A Consistent System
Putting together a consistent system for dealing with documents while maintaining compliance often comes down to building flex points into the system. You want to segment the task so you can adjust any non-compliant aspect without disrupting the entire process. For many businesses, the easiest way to handle this is to hand the task off to a third party. For others, developing a reliable system, where a small team keeps up-to-date on changes, disseminates information about the changes and implements them where appropriate, is the most viable solution.
Make sure you don’t make tweaks just for compliance benefits. The same adjustment process and tools you use to stay within federal guidelines can be used to make life easier in every aspect of document handling. There may be state and local regulations that should also be considered. If you’re working with a third party familiar with document handling and the relevant record retention guidelines, then optimizing becomes even easier.
As we said before, there’s a lot to consider when you’re looking at federal record retention guidelines. Not only do you need to balance your own needs and budgetary considerations against your legal obligations, you also need to do so in a consistent, reliable manner. After all, guidelines don’t stay the same for long. Build a plan, train everyone on your retention policy, enforce it, and ensure that it is updated as regulations change. In addition, be sure to review your document retention plan and any subsequent changes with your attorney. Contact CASNET today to learn more about how a document management system can optimize your organization.