The Importance of Handling Legacy EHR Data During the Move to a New EHR

While many EHR projects were put on hold or at least slowed down during COVID-19, we’re starting to see many of these projects revving back up.  Just because COVID-19 happened doesn’t mean it changed the fact that many healthcare organizations need to upgrade and switch out their EHR software or consolidate onto one EHR.  In fact, in many cases COVID-19 highlighted the need to move to a more modern EHR across their organization.

Plus, I predict that the market is ripe for a bunch of EHR switching and consolidation over the next couple years.  For example, Marlin Equity Partners has acquired AdvancedMD, Aprima, Practice Partner, and e-MDs.  It’s hard to imagine them going forward with all of these software platforms.  At some point I think they’re going to consolidate onto one and then those practices are going to have to move to a new EHR.

In my interview with Howard Messing, CEO of MEDITECH, we highlighted the 50 year history of MEDITECH and how they essentially launched a new EHR every decade.  While MEDITECH has been and seems to continue to be a strong partner when it comes to not sunsetting their legacy products, our recent MEDITECH EHR telehealth interview highlighted why it pays to be on their latest version to receive the most highly integrated telehealth possible.  Some of the latest features that healthcare organizations want can’t be built on the legacy systems.  It just makes sense that many organizations need to bite the bullet and move to MEDITECH Expanse.

I could go on highlighting many other reasons healthcare organizations are still switching EHR software and other companies that have multiple EHR software, but needless to say EHR switching is still going to be an important part of our industry.  Plus, thanks to healthcare consolidation, many healthcare organizations are still running multiple EHRs from different vendors.  I’ve seen some organizations that have acquired a lot of ambulatory practices having to maintain 5-6 EHRs along with their acute care EHR.  That’s obviously not sustainable and so it makes since for healthcare organizations to consolidate on one unified platform across acute and ambulatory.

As healthcare organizations consolidate their EHR, one of the key efforts you need to consider is what to do with your legacy EHR data.  Do you transfer it to the new EHR?  Can the new EHR take that data?  Is the legacy data accurate enough to move to the new EHR?  Do you need all of that data in the new EHR?  Is it worth the cost?  Are there less costly opportunities to maintain the data for compliance reasons, but not have to transfer it to the EHR?

If you want a jump start on answers to those questions and more, check out the MEDITECH Expanse Migration Series that was written and sponsored by Galen Healthcare Solutions.  While it dives into MEDITECH Expanse migration specifically, the principles apply to pretty much any EHR switching.  Along with the series of articles, they also shared this detailed whitepaper on EHR Switching – Preserving Data at the Point of Care that’s full of details on how to make the transition to a new EHR seamless while preserving the data from your legacy EHR(s).

As you go through the EHR migration and consolidation process, I’d focus on three key areas: Compliance, Care, and Cost.

Compliance – Many healthcare organizations fear moving data from their old EHR system to their new one and decommissioning the old one because of compliance issues.  Done wrong, there are some important compliance issues to worry about.  However, with the right partner who has done these type of transitions before, it’s perfectly compliant to transfer your old EHR data to a new EHR or an archive system.  There’s no need to keep paying those ongoing maintenance fees for an EHR you’re no longer using.

The key word mentioned above is moving your old EHR the right way.  To be compliant, it’s not just about transferring all the clinical data to the new system.  Yes, that’s important, but there’s more required to ensure you meet all the compliance guidelines.  For example, you may need to also transfer audit logs to ensure compliance.  This and more is all possible, but it illustrates why it’s important to have a thorough EHR migration process.  Otherwise, the compliance piece could come back to bite you.

Care – Nothing is more important than providing the best care to your patients.  That said, there’s nothing worse than your doctor opening your new EHR and not having the information from their old EHR available to them.  Not only does this cause burnout for your doctors, but not having the right information transferred to the new EHR in the right format could severely impact care.

While we all wish there was a nice EHR standard that would allow an organization to easily transfer all their EHR data from one EHR to the other, that’s just not the reality.  Even standards like CCDA have been implemented different on different EHR.  Knowing what’s possible in each EHR system and how each EHR has implemented various standards is key to being able to ensure that care is not impacted as you transition from an old EHR and go live on a new one.

Cost – No doubt healthcare organizations look at the cost associated with migrating data from their old EHR to a new one.  Migrating it properly, is not a cheap process since it does require a certain level of skill and expertise.  However, not migrating has its costs as well.  Whether that’s ongoing maintenance fees for the legacy EHR system you replaced or whether that’s inefficiencies in your organization, it’s important to weigh all of the costs associated with migrating your EHR data to a new EHR vs maintaining the old EHR for the required retention period.  Plus, don’t forget the compliance costs if you do it wrong.

One middle ground option to consider is migrating part of the data to the new EHR and then retaining the rest of the legacy EHR data in a separate archiving solution.  This allows the data to be preserved for compliance and care purposes (if needed), but allows you to save on the cost of maintaining legacy software that is no longer being used actively.    Plus, this is a great option if you don’t have a lot of confidence in the legacy EHR and other vendor data that you need to transition.

Looking at the EHR switching market going forward, we’re going to see a lot of healthcare organizations grappling with how to handle legacy data.  The good news is that we’ve now been through this before and there are many companies and organizations that can help you through the process.  However, it’s important to remember that it is a process.  It shouldn’t be an after thought in your new EHR project.  Those that do usually end up regretting it and then it often delays the implementation of your new EHR.  Nobody wants that.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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,, 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.