Archiving the phenome: clinical records deserve long-term preservation

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2009 Jan-Feb;16(1):1-6. doi: 10.1197/jamia.M2925. Epub 2008 Oct 24.


Retention policies for clinical records are set primarily by the states, although the federal government mandates minimum maintenance periods for certain classes of patients and selected types of information. State policies vary considerably, but most jurisdictions permit many types of data to be destroyed after some period usually shorter than 10 years. Many health care organizations hold records longer than mandated, but over time much clinical data are discarded or become difficult to access. For improved care of patients and for support of research, the nation should recognize that clinical information, both paper and electronic, constitutes a valuable asset, the national phenome, that deserves long-term storage in archives that preserve both the records and access to the information. The technical and social problems of establishing archiving are formidable but offer an opportunity to exploit the potential of clinical information for public good.

MeSH terms

  • Archives*
  • Information Management
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / standards*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Medical Records* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medical Records* / standards
  • United States