Optimal medical records holding period
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A medical record system within a hospital involves storage, retrieval, thinning and repair of the medical record files of patients. A file is created for a patient the first time he is admitted or visits the out-patient clinic. On his subsequent visits to the hospital, the file is retrieved from the storage area and sent to a doctor. When the patient is discharged from care, his new medical records will be added to the file by the doctor as needed, and it will then be sent back to the storage area. Usually, the storage age of a file is defined as the elapsed time since it was last retrieved; and hence the storage age of a file will grow if a patient does not revisit the hospital. In general, a hospital has a disposal policy to save storage space by microfilming or destroying a file if the storage age of a file reaches some specific limit. If a patient revisits the hospital before his medical record is disposed of, then the age of the file is set to zero. Based on the definition of the storage age, the state of a medical record can be defined as its storage age. Hence the study of patients' records leads to a dynamic transition process. A Markov chain model can be employed to analyze the process.