Are You a Healthcare Data Hoarder?

I’m thinking I need to start a new healthcare reality TV show called “Healthcare Data Hoarders.” We’ll go into healthcare institutions (after signing our HIPAA lives away), and take a look through all the data a healthcare organization is storing away.

My guess is that we wouldn’t have to look very far to find some really amazing healthcare data hoarders. The healthcare data hoarding I see happening in comes in two folds: legacy systems and data warehouses.

Legacy Systems – You know the systems I’m talking about. They’re the ones stored under a desk in the back of radiology. The software is no longer being updated. In fact, the software vendor is often not even around anymore. However, for some reason you think you’re going to need the data off that system that’s 30 years old and only one person in your entire organization knows how to access the legacy software. Yes, I realize there are laws that require healthcare organizations to “hoard” data to some extent. However, many of these legacy systems are well past those legal data retention requirements.

Data Warehouses – These come in all shapes and sizes and for this hoarding article let me suggest that an EHR is kind of a data warehouse (yes, I’m using a really broad definition). Much like a physical hoarder, I see a lot of organizations in healthcare that are gathering virtual piles of data for which they have no use and will likely never find a way to use it. Historically, a data warehouse manager’s job is to try and collect, normalize, and aggregate all of the healthcare organizations data into one repository. Yes, the data warehouse manager is really the Chief Healthcare Data Hoarder. Gather and protect and and all data you can find.

While I love the idea that we’re collecting data that can hopefully make healthcare better, just collecting data doesn’t do anything to improve healthcare. In fact, it can often retard efforts to leverage healthcare data to improve health. The problem is that the healthcare data that can be leveraged for good is buried under all of this useless data. It takes so much effort to sift through the junk data that people just stop before they even get started.

Are you collecting data and not doing anything with it? I challenge you to remedy that situation.

Is your healthcare organization a healthcare data hoarder?

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.

2 Comments

  • Thank you for posting about this topic. A long time ago, I was writing procedures for our EHR and we discussed retention/destruction requirements. I was concerned because a record could be deleted by admin, but there was a way to very easily bring it back. We talked about more ‘permanent’ deletion once the record retention requirements were met; however, at the time, the vendor stated there would always be a record on the back end. Seems our data will be around for a very long time (and more vulnerable to hacking?).

  • Heather,
    Unfortunately, EHR software is so new that the EHR vendors haven’t really tackled the data retention discussion yet. Is there any EHR vendor that has the ability to “permanently delete” a patient record? I haven’t seen one that does it.

    Although, it’s really interesting because some places want to keep their records for ever (research organizations, rural), but many others want to delete the record as soon as possible. Those who want to delete it are afraid of the liability of having an old record. These discussions haven’t happened yet, but will very soon.

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