FAQ – Retention of Encounter Sheets

When a local government employee asks me about the retention of a particular form, my typical response is, “What is the function of the form?” Since I do not work in your office, sometimes I need to ask a seemingly no-brainer question like that to understand where an individual form fits in your office’s workflow. One form that I receive many questions about is the ubiquitous encounter sheet.

The retention for encounter sheets seems confusing because these forms are involved in the billing process. Since financial information can be subject to audit, accounts receivable records often have a 3-5 year retention period. However, encounter sheets are listed in the Local Health Departments Retention and Disposition Schedule as having only a 1 year retention period.

Encounter Sheet RetentionWhy? Simply because of where the encounter sheet fits in the health department workflow. The encounter sheet is a tool for the clinician to communicate to the billing staff exactly which services the client received. The billing staff uses this form to input into the electronic billing system what services should be billed to the patient and/or the insurance company.

Since the information collected using this form is duplicated during the billing process, the encounter sheet itself only needs to be kept for a year. The 3-5 year retention will only apply to the billing system itself and the records that are then generated by the billing staff to track the resultant transactions.