Posted on January 23, 2015
by Bryan Wendell
in Ask the Expert
, Health and Safety
BSA says please don’t.
Digitally storing photos, books and music means everything’s at our fingertips wherever we are.
It’s convenient, but anyone who follows the news knows it’s not exactly secure.
That’s why there’s one thing for sure that doesn’t belong in the cloud: Scout medical records.
The rule is clear: Boy Scout Annual Health and Medical
Records are not to be digitized, scanned, sent by email or stored
electronically by unit leaders.
For more on the subject of digitizing medical records, let’s Ask the Expert.
The original question
Here’s the email I received from John, an assistant Scoutmaster:
This is a question for your “Ask the Expert” crew. In the
past I have heard of people who take unit medical forms and scan them to
a USB drive to carry. We have also done this in our troop. I was at a
training over the weekend and one of the Scouters was adamant that the
BSA “does not allow” saving documents to electronic media. Is this
really the case? If so can you explain the thought behind this?
The expert’s response
From Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s authority on health and safety:
Thanks for the question. First, please click here to review the FAQs at our one-stop place for all things related to medical records.
Under the “Have Questions? Get Answers Here” button you’ll find this:
Q. Can I keep a record of my Annual Health and Medical Record somewhere at my council’s office or online?
A. No. Please don’t digitize! Districts
and councils are discouraged from keeping any medical records, whether
digital or paper, unless required by local or state ordinances. However,
the electronic version of the Annual Health and Medical Record is
intended to be filled out and saved by individual Scouts and Scouters.
The electronic version of the Annual Health and Medical Record should
not be transmitted via email or stored electronically by units,
districts or councils. Units are encouraged to keep paper copies of
their participants’ Annual Health and Medical Records in a confidential
medical file for quick access in an emergency and to be prepared for all
There’s also this:
Q. What do leaders do with the Annual Health and Medical Records they collect?
A. In all cases, the information gathered is for
use in conducting a safe Scouting program. Information gathered in the
AHMR must be maintained and shared in a confidential and discreet
manner. Some conditions may require communication to ensure the safety
of participants. This information should only be shared on a
Following are some of the best practices for using and storing the records:
- The Annual Health and Medical Record is secured to
maintain the confidentiality of the information, yet at the same time,
the forms should be accessible by adult leaders in an emergency. The
following guidance will assist leaders in achieving this goal:
- Leaders are encouraged to maintain the original AHMR
forms in a safe location in a binder or file that protects the documents
entrusted to the unit leader.
- The AHMR should be taken on all activities.
- Designate a leader to keep the files containing the AHMR
up to date. This may include reminding participants to update the AHMR
annually or as needed.
- Designate a leader as the point of contact with event or
camp health officers. If needed, the leader should arrange to have the
AHMR returned to him or her at the end of the event, if allowed by the
- The unit leader (or his or her designee) is responsible
for destroying or returning to the participant (or parent and/or
guardian) the AHMR documents when the participant leaves the unit or
when the documents become outdated.
- Records are NOT to be digitized, scanned, sent by email, or stored electronically by unit leaders.
- To streamline a summer or winter camp check-in, records
of all participants are reviewed to make sure they are up to date,
completed, and signed before leaving for camp. Be sure to check with the
camp for any additional information that may be needed. For example,
specific immunization records may be required in some states.
Finally, you asked for the reason behind this
rule. We have evaluated the risks associated with digitizing and have
made a conscious effort not to do it. What you may think seems like such
a good idea has many implications on privacy, data transmission, loss,
etc., that we are not ready to address. So as an organization have
chosen to avoid the risk. Please don’t digitize.