How Long Should You Retain HIPAA Audit Logs?

Is it necessary for me to keep all of my HIPAA audit records for six years?

Organizations frequently ask us this question, and as you may have guessed, the solution isn't simple.

Although some people may tell you that all audit logs in your ePHI system must be kept for at least 6 years, the reality is a little more complicated—especially for business associates.

We wish to offer some perspective as experienced HIPAA assessors who comprehend how challenging and important this form of compliance is.

In this post, we'll examine the precise HIPAA legal requirements that include logs, as well as other informational frameworks and our suggested course(s) of action.

HIPAA Log Requirements

Although there is uncertainty here, it is best to keep HIPAA audit logs for six years. The HIPAA Security Rule distinguishes between the need to conduct audit logging and the need to maintain your compliance program's documentation for six years.

Regulated organizations must implement hardware, software and/or procedural mechanisms that record and examine activity in information systems that store or use electronic protected health information," according to the logging requirement [45 C.F.R. 164.312 (b)].

According to the preservation requirement [45 C.F.R. 164.316 (b)(1)(ii)], you shall preserve a written (which may be electronic) record of the action, activity, or assessment whenever an action, activity, or assessment is required to be documented by the Security Rule.

If audit logs constitute a "action, activity, or assessment" that falls under the purview of the retention requirement, HHS has not made it explicitly clear.

The retention requirement is typically interpreted by many covered businesses to merely relate to policies, processes, and other more conventional documentation. These organizations may only keep audit logs for one or two years.

Some additional factors to consider:

A long-term audit log rotation and retention strategy may be more economically possible than other alternatives, such as keeping audit logs in a live database, thanks to cloud object storage services like Amazon S3 (which is accessible through an AWS business partner agreement).

Operational logs, such as non-audit app logs, are exempt from HIPAA's strict retention rules and may be kept or discarded as necessary for operational purposes.

An accounting of disclosures of their protected health information made in the six years prior to their request may be requested by an individual under HIPAA.

Many common disclosures are exempt, but you must keep your audit logs for six years if you choose to record non-exempt disclosures in them.

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