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Five Things to Expect When Archiving Legacy Systems

Posted on | May 4, 2017
legacy EHR ERP system

So you’ve made the decision to implement a new EHR or ERP system at your healthcare organization. While your focus is likely on the features and benefits that manage data in the go-forward system, it is equally as important to focus on the archive that manages legacy health data or employee data that did not get converted. A legacy EHR archive allows you to decommission the EHR or ERP that got replaced. It provides a long-term, secure repository for all types of information that is required by law to be stored for years to come.

What can you expect when archiving legacy systems?

  1. To Save Money – starting here makes sense, because who doesn’t want to trim the fat out of their IT budget? A legacy EHR archive is a cost-effective solution to migrate legacy data sources into a single, secure repository that typically results in a return on investment within 18-24 months. Efforts to “keep the lights on” for an out-of-production system can get expensive. Think about the operational expenses that can be reduced – from software maintenance to hardware upgrades to IT labor costs. And, the data in go-forward systems – which is soon to become historical data for archival – likely is multiplying 100% every 18-months or so. So, isn’t it time to take the bull by the horns and utilize a HIPAA-compliant archive to house legacy data?
  2. To Form a Data Governance Team – formalizing a data governance team is something many healthcare organizations know is a must, but, they just don’t get around to formalizing it. The implementation of a legacy EHR archive requires that a cross-functional team comes together to make important decisions about how historical records are managed long-term to meet legacy health data storage, retention and destruction policies — and there is a slew of benefits that come from that, including (a) Strategy Development — determining a plan for legacy data management and prioritizing the archival of a variety of legacy data sources is a necessary evil. The sooner it gets addressed, the less work it will be in the long run. The team will identify the necessary people, processes and platforms to support data policies; (b) Accountability – deciding which job title is ultimately accountable to the secure storage of legacy health data to meet state record retention requirements is critical. Understanding how other job titles influence the governance of protected health data is equally as important; (c) Efficiency – managing data systematically in a cross-functional team environment brings built in efficiencies. This is most evident when a health system is in merger and acquisition mode. The onboarding of new hospitals or physician practices from a technology standpoint runs much more smoothly when strategies for migrating data from one platform to another is fully defined in a proven and repeatable process. Learn more about forming a Data Governance Team.
  3. To Eliminate Data Silos and Reduce the Likelihood of Breach – storing legacy data in multiple places causes more problems than it solves. As many healthcare organizations strive for one common go-forward EHR or ERP system, they should also strive for one common archive. Preserving medical or employee records in a single location makes for simplified search, access, request for information fulfillment and reporting. It is not uncommon for healthcare organizations to have upwards of 30 disparate legacy systems up and running at one time. It’s a good idea to consult with trusted industry experts to help you properly and safely prioritize and project manage the decommissioning of legacy systems. Minimizing the number of locations that data exists can also potentially help minimize the risk of security breaches. Security breaches hit an all-time high in 2016 with 328 incidents, or almost one per day. A Healthcare Breach Report found that human error from unintentional disclosure accounted for 40 percent of the breaches in 2016; however, the five largest breaches were all due to hacking. In total, 16.6 million Americans’ records leaked in 2016.
  4. To Meet Record Retention Requirements – securing records for the next 7 to 25 years (or even into perpetuity) can be a challenge as the platforms housing the data age. Data security is at risk as servers degrade and operating systems corrupt. State and federal retention requirements are in place that could lead to fines if your organization is non-compliant. As legacy EHR archives are primarily read-only data stores, the infrastructure required to run them is minimal and easy to manage over time, especially when hosting is involved.
  5. To Get More Sleep – worrying about antiquated, unreliable or unsupported systems that are likely to crash when you need them most certainly has the potential to keep a conscientious IT Director or CIO up at night. A HIPAA-compliant archive safeguards historical patient records and simplifies user access. Less software. Less hardware. Less worry. More sleep.

Archiving may not be the most exciting item on your IT, HIM or legal “to do” list, but, it most certainly is a pressing one where the benefits far outweigh the risks. A solid legacy data archive can be a smart step forward in managing historical patient and operational data well into the future. It offers compliance with the numerous local, state and national regulations and a single, easy to use solution for historical information. As healthcare systems streamline their go-forward systems, so too should they streamline their archiving systems to support easy and efficient record retrieval.

If you have more questions about healthcare information archiving, contact Harmony Healthcare IT, the makers of Health Data Archiver.

Editor’s Note: Some of this information is from an earlier blog post from 2016.

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