How Long Do You Keep Client Records?
When a new member joins the Cooper Fitness Center, all his or her initial information (data sheet, informed consent and PAR-Q) is stored in our mainframe database. The information stays active as long as the member is active. Once a person leaves the center, the records are stored indefinitely in a nonactive file in the mainframe database.
In addition, each new member receives a functional assessment. Initial data from this assessment are saved in the computer and as hard copy. Once a client has completed all of his or her sessions, the file is kept in a data office space for an indefinite amount of time.
Last, all trainers have their own file systems. We suggest that trainers keep records for at least 5 years once a client is no longer in training. I personally store all my inactive files by year and recycle them after the 5 years are over.
Carla B. Sottovia, PhD
Assistant Fitness Director and Senior Personal Trainer, Cooper Fitness Center
I don’t have a set amount of time for throwing out records. When I moved into a new place, I went through an old file and saw that I had some client papers from as far back as 1990! (I threw those out.)
I keep client records for as long as 10 years, although I pare down what I actually hold onto. My filing system (after much testing of different methods) uses hanging file folders, and I have a drawer in my desk devoted to the system. As much as I love the computer for a lot of things like forms and databases, I’ve found the hanging files the simplest system to use for clients’ paperwork.
Every time I begin working with a new client, I create a folder. The plastic tabs are great because they make it easy to keep everyone in alphabetical order. While I am training someone, all the paperwork goes in the file.
When my drawer gets too full, it’s time to purge. I go through the files and remove the records of people who’ve been off my roster for the longest. From each of these files, I take the most important papers, like the waiver, the original notes and maybe the final workout we did. I staple these together and move them into a different folder called “Former Clients.” (I also keep these records in alphabetical order.) I get rid of the rest of the stuff. Every now and then, someone shows up to train, like a blast from the past, and it takes just 2 seconds to find this person’s paperwork and refresh my memory.
Personal Trainer and Fitness Counselor, Frog’s Club One
Solana Beach, California
In my personal life, I usually don’t keep things that I don’t use or need anymore, like clothes or shoes. It feels good to pass them on to friends or coworkers. So I was surprised when I saw that my client records go back 15 years. I feel a deep appreciation for the clients who have sought me out as a trainer and allowed me to enter their lives; maybe that’s why I haven’t totally emptied my older files. I have a “Former Clients” file that includes waivers, liability release forms and short notes on the clients’ preferences.
I keep folders of all clients from the last 6 years in an organized filing system. I keep health histories, liability/consent forms, and assessment notes on injuries and abilities. I usually keep workout records for 4 years or so. My health assessment and screening forms have evolved to five pages over the last 2 years, so any returning clients have to complete the questionnaire. I give clients copies of the liability release forms and my policies for their own records.
I also keep an extensive mailing list, in a notebook, of people who’ve attended workshops that I’ve given in the past, with little notes so I can remember them.
I hope to get everything on the computer in the future, but for now my filing system works well.
Instructor, ACE Gold-Certified
Personal Trainer, IDEA Elite Personal Fitness Trainer
Owner, Personal Fitness Studio
We keep records for 5 years following a client’s last appointment with us. We created this policy after consulting with our attorney and reviewing the literature in both the medical and fitness industries. For each client we also create a summary sheet with relevant information—for example, the reason the person stopped using our services, and any customer service matters or medical issues. We keep the hard copies that contain the client-trainer signatures.
We try to review the summary sheets every 6 months to improve our service and retention. A review also prompts us to call clients where appropriate to check up on their fitness programs.
CEO, First Fitness Inc. and FitAdvisor.com
Salt Lake City
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