Legacy data archiving: Getting it right the first time

Posted on: Tuesday, February 4, 2020 By: KorchekStaff

We live in a world of instant gratification — immediate notifications, lightning-speed sharing, next-day delivery. It’s no wonder we're easily frustrated when something doesn't work. Online, we can delete, unsubscribe and return. Not so in real life, especially when you hire the wrong vendor to archive your legacy data.

Transitioning from one EMR system to another requires an organization to move every piece of data off its current EMR system. While about two years' worth will convert to the new EMR system, what happens to the rest of the patient data, revenue cycle data, CT scans, labs, etc.?

Unfortunately, the search for a legacy data archiving vendor often comes up late in the EMR transfer discussion. And often, organizations leave this legacy data on the original vendor system, paying high vendor fees and dedicating a lot of staff time for what is, essentially, an electronic file cabinet.

There's a better way.

Archive legacy data

Knowing how often clinicians and staff will need to access legacy data determines the type of archive to consider — as there are a few options, ranging from low-functioning archives that basically serve as a "cold storage" for rarely accessed data, to high-functioning archive solutions with lots of bells and whistles that allow users to work with and even modify the archived data.

Buyer beware: What hospitals should know

While the data archiving process involves a few steps, what happens in between, as well as what it takes to complete each step, is complex, unique to the specific hospital or healthcare organization and not without bumps in the road.

Before shopping around, hospitals should understand what is involved in data archiving and what it takes to get the job done right the first time. Some vendors will promise as little as a 90-day turnaround. In actuality, the timing depends on many variables. The wrong decision will result in wasted time and money — and isn't that what hospitals need to avoid in the first place?

Ask the right questions

Involve internal stakeholders from the start — clinicians, finance people, HIM and IT staff — to establish needs and priorities. Start by asking: "How many legacy systems do we have? What type of data do we manage? Is it clinical, patient accounting or both? How will it be used? Does it need to be accessed within another workflow? Is it needed with some degree of frequency?” Some organizations may even want to create a formal Request for Proposal. Above all, they should look for vendors who dig deep to determine the best possible strategy and timeline that is specific to the particular organization.

Make "apples to apples" comparisons

The vendors' recommendations should include a customized roadmap with processes, responsibilities and timelines. It is important for decision makers to understand vendor terminology, tactics and timing, so they can make "apples to apples" comparisons between competing vendors.

For example, an organization may be tempted to go with the "faster" vendor, but it’s important to keep in mind that there are a number of factors that influence timelines:

Some archive systems capture archive data as read-only PDFs. While this method saves time, it produces data that is difficult to find and work with, and it requires users to scroll through pages of content vs. conducting a search. The data in PDFs will not be discrete either.

  • A promise to have legacy data in a new EMR system in one day is actually data integration, not data archiving.
  • Other shortcuts include skimping on the checks and balances, such as fewer validations of archive data at various stages. Good vendors will have built in several validations, resolving issues before go-live.
  • Some vendors underestimate timing. It's like a GPS quoting a driver the shortest ETA — it's assuming there's no traffic or patches of bad weather. But delays are human. If a vendor says they'll have an organization up and running in as little as 90 days, they're not accounting for the fact that the data migration stage alone, when done properly, takes 4 months. Clearly, this is a complex process with many variables at play.

The fact is, proper archiving of legacy data can take an average of 9 to 12 months to complete and up to 18 months before the old system can be retired. The result is an 80 percent reduction in costs. And while the archival process may not be accomplished at the speed of light, it will be done right, saving time, money and frustration.