Storage and Disposal of Patient Records
- What is considered a "patient record"?
- Can patient records be stored in the Archives and Research Collections Centre (ARCC)?
- What about patient records created or maintained by Western faculty, staff or students through their association with a teaching hospital?
- What about patient records retained by Western faculty to support their individual research?
- For those patient records that are stored in the ARCC, how is confidentiality protected?
- Once patient records are stored in the ARCC, can they be retrieved if needed?
- Can Western Archives assist in arranging the proper disposal of patient records once they are no longer required?
- If the final disposition recommendation is destruction, how is this carried out?
A ‘patient record' is any information in any form or in any medium, whether in written, printed, photographic or electronic form or otherwise, that documents any observation, examination, assessment, care, service or procedure that is done for a health‑related purpose in order to diagnose, treat or maintain an individual's physical or mental condition, to prevent disease or injury, to promote health, or to provide palliative care. For the purpose of this document, a ‘patient record' also includes any such material that has been created or collected for the purpose of research.
Only certain patient records are eligible for storage in the ARCC under the auspices of Western Archives' record centre service. These are:
- Records specifically created or received as a result of the direct delivery of health-related services by a Western unit (e.g., Student Health Services, the H.A. Leeper Speech and Hearing Clinic, one of the dental clinics, etc)
- Records that have been collected and/or maintained by a Western unit for the specific purpose of conducting research and that are not required for any ongoing treatment or medical care provided by a non-Western health agency.
There is no charge for this service. However, units wishing to transfer patient records are responsible for boxing them appropriately and preparing an adequate list/index to facilitate retrieval. This must be done before the boxes will be accepted for storage.
What about patient records created or maintained by Western faculty, staff or students through their association with a teaching hospital?
These records are the responsibility of the hospital where care was provided. Western Archives has no authority to provide storage or retrieval services for these records.
Western Archives has no mandate to store research or teaching materials of individual faculty members. These are considered personal papers, not University records. For more information, see Frequently Asked Questions: Personal Papers of Individual Faculty Members.
All records transferred into storage under the auspices of Western Archives' record centre service remain the property of the transferring unit. They are not disposed of (permanently preserved by Western Archives or destroyed) without additional written authorization from the transferring unit (see question 7). No other access is permitted without prior approval, based on a list of authorized names provided at the time of transfer.
In addition, Western Archives staff will not access the contents of any boxes of patient records unless the transferring unit gives specific authorization for individual files or documents to be retrieved (see question 6) or for examination of records as part of the Records Disposal Authority review process (see question 7).
Yes. All records placed in storage under the auspices of Western Archives' records centre service can be retrieved by authorized staff of the transferring unit as required. For more information on the services, consult the Records Centre Services Guide.
Can Western Archives assist in arranging the proper disposal of patient records once they are no longer required?
Yes, Western Archives can coordinate the disposal of the types of patient records described in question 2. This can be done for records that are stored in the ARCC and also for records that are still in the custody of the originating unit.
To begin this process the transferring/originating unit must submit a Records Disposal Authority form, which is available from Western Archives. The form certifies that all unit-level retention requirements have been met and includes a final disposition recommendation, either archival preservation or destruction. Western Archive staff review the form and all associated records to confirm that the latter are ready for final disposition. Assuming that all is in order, the University Archivist then approves the form, at which point the records are eligible for disposal.
Western Archives has a contract with a private-sector records disposal company that carries out the actual destruction. This company, which has been approved to provide similar services to the federal government, operates a large off-site confidential records destruction facility. Paper records are shredded and other media forms are shredded or disintegrated, as appropriate.