EMR Conversions

I got an email asking me about converting an EMR from one EMR vendor to another. No doubt as time progresses, we’re going to see more and more clinics having to make the switch as clinics continue to consolidate. Here’s my response to this person. Hopefully other people will find it informative.

Converting an EMR is an incredibly challenging affair. Especially when you’re trying to convert from an ambulatory EMR to a hospital EMR.

There’s so many factors I’m not really sure where to start. I guess the first question is did you negotiate in your contract with Practice Partner that 1. you own the data in your EMR and 2. they would provide the “database schema” of the EMR so you would know where and how the data is stored in the database?

If you don’t have these 2 things, then converting the data is going to be an extremely big challenge. Even with these things, you can expect some major challenges. One EMR vendor described the conversion process the best. He described it as an imperfect science where you’ll never know 100% for sure that you got ALL of the data out and done correctly. You can know you’re close, but it’s almost impossible to know you got everything out of the previous EMR. It’s basically a best guess and often requires an iterative process where you think you got most of it and then you realize that something else is missing and so you have to go back and see what you did wrong.

The future of EMR is for the EMR interoperability standards to improve to a point where you can essentially “export” all the data from your EMR in some sort of standard format which you can then import into a new EMR. Those standards will be used by patients when they switch doctors. They’ll also be used by patients that want to have their own “PHR.” They’ll also be used by specialists to interact with primary care doctors. However, these standards have a long way to go. So, until then, it’s going to be an imperfect science.

Anyone else have thoughts and suggestions for those looking to convert from one EMR to a new EMR?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of 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.


  • The difficulties you mention make it all the more important to make a good selection up front, based on well thought out goals, a detailed needs assessment and a “due diligence” selection process. There are many systems to choose from, but not all are easy to use, cost-effective and close to meeting the Meaningful Use objectives of 2011!

  • Jim,
    You are absolutely correct. Selection of the right EMR is so critical. I’m about to release an e-Book on EMR selection. Hopefully I can improve the process of selecting an EMR.

    That’s a pretty tough threesome to try and achieve by an EMR vendor: easy to use, cost-effective and meets meaningful use.

  • John, you are absolutely correct. EMR Conversions are extremely complicated but they’re also fundamental for a practice that has decided to switch EMR systems.

    I’m actually pleased to report to you that there’s a new solution available for EMR Conversions.

    ELLKAY, an industry leader in data connectivity, announced at HIMSS 2010 that a new EMR Conversion division has been launched. ELLKAY is an unbiased company as they’ll work with any EMR company to provide full extraction & conversion services. They don’t sell or recommend any PMS / EMR systems; rather, they work with any software that a practice may need conversion assistance with.

    Read more about this at http://www.ConvertMyEMR.com .

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