What Is a Medical File Cabinet?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 01 January 2019
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A medical file cabinet stores medical records in an organized and secure fashion. In nations with privacy laws pertaining to medical records, it is important to make sure appropriate filing systems are used for the safety and security of records. Medical suppliers and specialty furniture companies may produce filing systems specifically designed for medical files. It may also be possible to use a generic cabinet that meets specifications.

Many medical practices use an open filing system, with shelves for files, rather than drawers. Tabs on the files allow personnel to quickly locate information, and dividers may be used for organization. A medical file cabinet needs to have drawers tall and deep enough to accommodate medical records. Some may need to hold large x-ray films and other big documents, in which case oversized shelving may be necessary.

Beyond a specific configuration, a medical file cabinet may also lock. Doors or sliders can cover the files when not in use and lock in place to prevent unauthorized access. This may be required under the law, or simply recommended for medical practices with concerns about sensitive health information. The system may allow staff to open sections separately to limit the number of visible files when they access the medical file cabinet.


Fireproofing can also be a concern. Medical records must be protected from fire and other damage to ensure that they will be available. Cabinets with fire resistance ratings may help a practice stay compliant with legal requirements and protect its files from the elements. These medical file cabinets are made with heavy construction and paints to resist fire, and have a rating based on the degrees of heat they can endure before the metal starts to fail and the files inside are at risk of damage.

Many systems are modular for convenience. This allows medical practices to expand filing systems as they grow without having to replace older cabinets. The cabinets will all have a similar look and feel, even if they were manufactured at different times, and should fit safely together. Modular filing can also be easily rearranged in the office to accommodate changes in layout.

Medical practices with specific concerns about legal issues may be advised to consult a legal adviser before setting up a medical file cabinet. An attorney can review the legal responsibilities associated with the filing system, and may have specific recommendations for the client. These can include advice on particular filing systems and features that may help a practice conform with the law.



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