Storage of Files
“Organizing is what you do before you do something,
so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”
~ A. A. Milne
Storage of Clinical Files
For guidelines around proper storage of clinical notes and case files, please refer to the guidelines set out by your professional associations.
General best practices include maintaining two layers of security for both paper-based or digital files. For example: For paper-based files, you may have a lock on your office door and a lock on your filing cabinet. For digital files, you would have a password on your computer and a password on the location your encrypted files are stored in.
Additionally, in the past the expectation was you needed to keep your client case files for seven years and then they could be destroyed.
I spoke to the BCACC again to confirm this and this is the response I was given: “Based on the Limitation Act and PIPA, our lawyer has said that in some cases, files might need to be kept at least twice that long, especially in situations where you have disaffected, litigious or extremely problematic clients. Depending on the situation, therefore, counsellors might need to keep files indefinitely—but in any case they should seek legal and/or clinical supervision advice on their options.”
Again refer to the expectations of your professional associations for all matters pertaining to your clinical work.
Storage of Business Documents (note: this does not refer to clinical case files)
I’m a firm believer in always having a back-up plan for all your business files. You don’t want a crashed computer to crash your business. The two systems I use for maintaining my business files are: Dropbox and Google Drive (along with a good ol’ paper back-up)
Dropbox is a service where you can upload files for online storage so you can access them from any computer and from your mobile devices. They also automatically provide a 30 day back-up too so you can retrieve deleted files within that time if you call and ask customer service really nice.
The basic account offers 2 G of space for free and it is really easy to use. You can invite friends to join and get more space or you can pay to upgrade for $10.99 USD/m. You can access your files from any computer or mobile device so even if your computer goes down, you can get documents on your phone or vice versa.
Google Drive is automatically included with any google based email account (either through Google Apps or Gmail) and you can use it store documents and files online as well. Again they keep track of any revisions to documents so you can revert back to old versions if things go wonky.
You can also access your Google Drive from any computer that allows access to your email account or from your mobile device. If you have a gmail.com account this feature is free, and if you purchase the Google Apps Suite it comes included.
I always keep one or two copies of my paperwork in a file in my office to cover the event of a power outage, or computer problems. (Yes, I have done therapy by candlelight before – the show must go on).
The only downside with using only paper files is it limits how quickly you can update files and it takes up a lot of space once you start building your business resources. I print out only the paperwork or files I need as I go to eliminate office clutter.