The following is a guest blog post by Sudhakar Mohanraj, Founder and CEO, Triyam.
Every product has a lifecycle. The lifecycle of Electronic Health Record (EHR) software begins when it is implemented at your facility and ends when it’s no longer in use. When a facility decides to move to a new EHR, it’s natural to focus planning around the new software system. However, not considering the legacy EHR can leave you wondering what should happen to all of the historical patient financial and medical data. You have many choices. This article will discuss some of the challenges and options that will influence your cost, legal compliance, and stakeholder satisfaction.
Three common mistakes to avoid when moving to a new EHR
- Hanging on to the legacy EHR
Some say: “we will worry about shutting down the old system later after the new EHR is up and going.” Taking that path is risky and expensive.
Consider the cost. Until you get all your historical data off the legacy system, you need to pay vendors licensing and support fees. You may infrequently be using the old system, which makes these fees particularly unwarranted. In addition, you continue to pay your employees to operate and maintain the old system.
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Some say, “I will stop paying my old vendor. I don’t need any more updates or support.” However, sooner or later, hardware and software will break or become incompatible to newer technology. Older systems are an easy target for hackers and thieves.
Over time, your employees will forget passwords, how to navigate the old system or leave for other jobs. Then, when you, a patient, or your boss needs some report from the old system, you are caught short. Over time, data retained on an old, unsupported, infrequently used system increases the risk of being lost, stolen, corrupted, and not accessible by newer technology.
Bottom line: keeping an old, infrequently used system will needlessly eat up your time and money.
- Migrating all historical data from the legacy system to the new EHR
Some facilities are surprised to learn that the new EHR vendor will not convert all the historical data to the new computer system.
The new system is organized differently than the legacy system with different data elements and structures. There is never a one-to-one match on data mapping between the old and new systems.
It is difficult to validate the accuracy and completeness of data you want to import from the old system. The new EHR vendor doesn’t want to risk starting with an inaccurate database.
This is a golden opportunity to start with a clean slate. For example, you can take this time to reorganize, re-categorize, re-word codes, and tables. Now is the time to set up master files properly, and to make the system more efficient.
The new EHR vendor will lobby for you to start with a clean slate and populate the new database with only current patients, current balances, and current information.
- Ignoring Legal Compliance Requirements
Federal and state laws require healthcare facilities to retain medical and financial reports for 5 to 15 years and make these reports available to patients and others upon request. Keeping these records will help to avoid penalties, fines, and loss of certifications. Consult your compliance office, accountant, and HIPAA director to know Federal, IRS, and state-specific requirements.
Use this Data retention tool to find the retention requirements for your state.
Why data archival is an excellent choice
What are the best practices to deal with historical data? Data from the old system needs to be organized in a safe, secure place so that the information can be found and made readily available to those who need it in a timely fashion. In other words, it needs to be archived.
An archive is a separate system from your new EHR. It contains all your historical data and reports. When users sign into the archive program, depending on their user rights, they may see all or some of the historical reports. The most common functions of the archive system include:
- Search and query clinical and financial data for “Continuity of Care.”
- Download, view, print, and share reports for “Release of Information.”
Archival is a new concept. KLAS research is creating a new product category for this. Listen to this on-demand webinar from the head of EHR Archive studies at KLAS Research.
In the archive, you can see all patients and their previous charts, medications, treatments, billings, insurance claims, payments, and more. You will also see the historical vendor, employee, and accounting records.
What type of data goes to the archive? All sorts. You can retain discrete data or non-discrete data, structured data (like SQL, XML, CCDA), or unstructured data that is logically grouped and presented in a human-readable form like pdf reports, Excel spreadsheets, CCD, jpeg, or mp3 files.
Mergers and data consolidation
Archival is essential even when there isn’t a transition to new EHR. During a merger, the new entity frequently wants to consolidate patient financial and clinical data from multiple legacy systems into a common platform. Data archiving may be the best solution for dealing with multiple EMR/EHRs. Archival is less expensive than complex conversion and transformation efforts. Besides lower costs, it allows users to research on consolidated data using business intelligence and analytics tools running on one common unified database.
Outsourcing and vendor selection
Outsourcing has become an increasingly popular option for archival solutions for three reasons – cost, experience, and convenience. IT managers are already stretched to limits of time, resources, and budget. Outside vendors can save the day by offering services for less cost.
When searching for an archival vendor, consider the following:
- Experience in extracting data from your legacy systems which are no longer supported
- Complete turnkey solutions – planning, pilot testing, data conversion, user acceptance, and decommissioning
- Archival product features and ease of use
- Great customer references
- Cost of archiving should only be a fraction of the cost of retaining legacy system
The number one failure when implementing a new EHR is procrastinating the archival of legacy data. Hopefully, you can use a few of these ideas to maximize the benefits of your historical data, minimize costs, and best serve your user constituents.
Triyam delivers expert solutions in EMR / EHR Data Conversion and Archival.
Triyam’s data conversion services help hospitals and clinics to freely migrate from one EHR vendor to another without losing any historical patient data. Triyam’s EHR archival product, Fovea is a vendor neutral, innovative and intuitive platform to store all your legacy data. Fovea includes a powerful search engine and extensive reporting for Business Intelligence and Analytics. Triyam is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.