Steps Hospitals Should Consider When Migrating EMR Data

When your organization decides to convert to a new EMR, the problems it faces extend beyond having to put the right technical architecture in place. Deciding which data to migrate and how much data to migrate from the previous EMR poses additional challenges, and they’re not trivial.

On the one hand, moving over all of your data is expensive (and probably not necessary). On the other, if you migrate too little data, clinicians won’t have an adequate patient history to work from, and what’s more, may not be in compliance with legal requirements.

But there are methods for determining how to make the transition successfully. HCI Group Data Technical Lead Mustafa Raja, argues that there are three key factors hospitals should consider when planning to migrate legacy EMR data into a new system:

  • Decide which data you will archive and which you will migrate. While many organizations fall back on moving six months of acute care data and a year’s worth of ambulatory data, Raja recommends looking deeper. Specifically, while ambulatory transitions may just include medications the patients are on and diagnostic codes in the past year, acute care data encompasses many different data types, including allergies, medications, orders, labs and radiology reports. So deciding what should transition isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. Once you’ve made the decision as to what data will be transitioned, see that whatever archival storage system you decide upon is easily accessible and not too costly, Raja suggests. You’ll want to have the data available, in part, to respond to security audits.
  • Consider how complex the data is before you choose it for transition to the new EMR. Bear in mind that data types will vary, and that storage methods within the new system may vary from the old. If you are migrating from a nonstandard legacy system to an EMR with data standards in place — which is often the case — you’ll need to decide whether you are willing to go through the standardization process to make the old data available. If not, bear in mind that the nonstandard data won’t be easily accessible or usable, which can generate headaches.
  • Be prepared for the effect of changes in clinical rules and workflow. When upgrading from your legacy system, you’ll probably find that some of its functionality doesn’t work well with the new system, as the new system’s better-optimized workflows will be compatible with the old system, Raja notes. What kind of problems will you encounter? Raja offers the example of a legacy system which includes non-required fields in one of its forms, transitioning to a system that DOES require the fields. Since the data for the newly-required fields doesn’t exist, how do you handle the problem?

Of course, your plans for data migration will be governed by many other considerations, including the speed at which you have to transition, the purposes to which you plan to put your new EMR, your budget, staffing levels and more. But these guidelines should offer a useful look at how to begin thinking about the data migration process.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.