Converting Data from Old EMR to New EMR

There was a lot of interesting response to my article on replacing an EMR. I actually got an email response that I believe is a really interesting read about one EMR vendors take on the challenges of converting the data from an old EMR to a new EMR. Here’s the email response (with old EMR vendor name removed since it could have been any EMR):

Interesting article. This is where I live each and every day.

Most recently, I’ve switched a client from [current EMR Vendor] to our product Red Planet. The price tag on upgrading [current EMR Vendor] was too prohibitive and they were already familiar with us since we were doing the PMS. So, we already had a foot in the door.

There were two challenges: 1) Converting the data. 2) Converting the culture.

The data was not easily accessible, even through it was SQL based. It was just hand-to-hand combat learning where/how the data was stored and then extracting. The real issue is that you don’t know that you got all of it. You bring up a visit on the new system, and it looks complete until you read some of the fine detail and discover it dropped the last 1/5 of a sentence. I’d scratch my head, go back and do extensive research, find the culprit, run another conversion and we would inch forward. This was extended over a 6 month period. It isn’t like converting a PMS where you know the receivables is X dollars and you can balance to the penny. There is no equivalent “penny” in the EMR and no one has the time to look at every nook and cranny of every note, shot record, lab result, image, or order. So when it looks close, you go for it.

An EMR imposes a culture on an organization. The staff, for instance, would continually ask me how they “suspend” a note so someone else could work on it. “Well, in Red Planet, we don’t do a suspend. There is no need,” would be my response. They would shake their heads, and try to wrap their minds around this new concept. I would watch them do things on their old system that I thought were tedious, non-intuitive, and very prone to error. I would then show them things in Red Planet and they would say to me it was tedious, non-intuitive, and very prone to error.

Now, when they were right about something being cumbersome, I at least have the ability to re-tool a process or function. In the end I’ve been able to capitalize on the things that were good from [their old EMR Vendor] and enhanced our product. I’m a fanatic for speed and accuracy, so being superior to what they had is an obsession.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

4 Comments

  • We recently assisted one of our clients with the acquisition and consequent conversion from Greenway Primesuite EMR to Allscripts Enterprise EHR: http://blog.galenhealthcare.com/2011/06/15/data-conversion-success-story-lexington-county-health-services-district/

    We share similar sentiment to that outlined in the email above. Luckily, Greenway Primesuite utilizes SQL Server as the backend database – the same goes for Allscripts Enterprise EHR. The challenge lied in the querying and extraction of the data. It was quite a learning process for our lead conversion consultant. The Galen Clinical Conversion Toolkit allowed for the efficient and seamless integration of the data into the Allscripts Enterprise EHR.

    Still, after the fact, I think clients need to be aware of the multitude of different ways the data can be converted – and the workflow implications of each.

  • Justin,
    I’d love to learn more about your experiences with EMR data conversion. I think that’s going to be a popular subject in the next 5-10 years.

    I’d also love to hear how you deal with the biggest potential issue of exporting data from an EMR: knowing you got all the data. Far too often you think you’ve exported all of the data, and then you realize there’s some unique case that you didn’t know about and so you didn’t export that data. How do you deal with that?

  • John,

    You can help both the provider and HIT community on this issue with a better mutual understanding of the problems and expectations.

    – Will the From vendor assist?
    – Can the From vendor assist? The From system might be outdated and no longer supported.
    – Just because both systems use SQL (even the same flavor such as MySQL) doesn’t mean the From and To data models will map.

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