WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT ALL THERAPISTS HAVE A WRITTEN CONTRACT THAT CLEARLY STATES WHAT ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE REGARDING CLIENT FILES. Making this decision in advance of employment or assocation with a clinic will prevent disputes when a therapist leaves the clinic.
Ownership of and access to client files may be dealt with in the following ways:
- The therapist maintains his/her own records (locked in a private area where only the therapist has access) and will take them with him/her upon leaving the clinic.
- The therapist agrees that the records remain at the clinic, but obtains a written agreement that the clinic will allow the therapist access to the records as necessary, even after leaving the clinic.
- Both parties agree that the records will remain at the clinic, but that when leaving the clinic, the therapist will photocopy (at his/her own cost) those records for which they have professional responsibility.
1. Who owns the files in a clinic?
The client/patient owns his or her own file, it is not the property of either the clinic or the therapist.
2. I don't have a written agreement. What happens to my client files if I move to a different clinic?
The answer depends on the nature of the business relationship you have with the place in which you work.
A. You rent a space and are fully responsible for everything related to your business. (File management, taking bookings, laundry etc.) In this case, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the file contents at all times (they should be in a locked cabinet). Obviously in this case, you take the files with you if you move locations.
B. You are on commission at a clinic or other business. (You pay a percentage of your treatment fees to the clinic. The clinic is responsible for taking bookings, file management etc.) If you wish to take copies of client files with you, you must get written permission from each client to do so. A simple release form will suffice. Once this permission is recorded in the client file, you are entitled to take a photocopy (at your own expense) of the client file, however the original file remains in the clinic. (This information is taken from HIPA and PIPEDA.)
C. You are an employee. (You are paid a salary for your services and operate under the guidelines determined by your employment contract.) As with any other business, you take only personal belongings with you if you leave. Just as you would not expect to remove the equipment, fixtures and fittings you use in your daily work, you should not expect to remove client files.
3. How long should I keep client files?
Files should be retained for at least 7 years from the date of the last treatment for adult clients and until age 28 for minor clients.
You must have access to records for the following reasons:
a. To provide a copy of the record to the client upon their written request.
b. To provide a copy to MTAS, if a complaint has been received against you, or if there is reason to investigate your practice.
c. To use in your defense should you be sued by a client.