A Guide to Healthcare Data Archiving Solutions: Basics and Best Practices

In the late 1980s, most healthcare records were stored physically as paper records. Since then, the exponential growth of data and increased digital transformation caused by federal initiatives, have caused the immense growth in the adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) by healthcare organizations. Such an adoption growth had led to the emergence of about 3,600 complete EHR vendors and modular products in the market by the end of stage one of Medicare & Medicaid’s EHR Incentive Program. EPIC and Cerner have become the leading vendors in the EHR market. As of 2019, about three-quarters of office-based physicians (72%) and nearly all non-federal acute care hospitals (96%) had adopted a certified EHR. In a recent report by Vantage Market Research, titled,Electronic Medical Record Marketthe Electronic Medical Record industry generated USD 28,692.52 million in 2021 and is anticipated to generate USD 42,818.81 million by 2028, showing a CAGR of 6.9% from 2022 to 2028.

The questions that naturally arise upon reading such staggering EHR adoption rates may include:

  • What do organizations do with all the old data that resides in their obsolete, unused legacy EHRs?
  • Is there a way for healthcare facilities to manage that data effectively without disrupting the recent operational data used in their new systems?

The solution to these questions is a bit complex. In spite of such growing EHR adoption rates, dealing with EHRs can be challenging. This could be because EHRs simply do not have the functionality required by healthcare facilities that can help them use their legacy data in a way that is productive or helps business growth. EHRs are cost incurring as they require organizations to pay maintenance and application costs and thereby can be extremely detrimental to a business. Also, organizations may struggle to manage their patient data that is stored in several EHRs and EMRs due to lack of a data compatibility with newer systems.

Despite such problems, healthcare providers opt to retain their old data in legacy EHRs because they think it is the only way they can meet statutory requirements. On the other hand, to overcome the above-mentioned challenges that accompany EHRs, many organizations have found, in data archival, an optimal solution that can help save the day.

What is Data Archival?

Data Archival is the process of moving inactive records from legacy systems containing key-sequenced data sets to a long-term storage system. It is an important aspect of a long-term data retention strategy for healthcare organizations. The archived data is usually stored in an appropriate system, separate from recently operational data, where it can be easily searched and accessed readily, whenever required by healthcare providers and other services. According to the latest analysis by Emergen Research, the Global Health Data Archiving Market size is expected to reach USD 9.28 Billion in 2028 and register a steady revenue CAGR of 14.1% between 2021 and 2028!

 

Data Archiving Vs Data Backups

Healthcare organizations may think that a backup of their data will provide the same results as archival, as both processes involve making a copy of the organization’s data for future use. But such an assumption is hardly true, and medical data archiving should not be confused with data backups. The two terms though used interchangeably, are not the same. A backup helps copy current operational data, and the original files are not affected as the system only creates a copy that can be later used for disaster recovery. Archiving, on the other hand, helps organizations extract and store legacy data through indexing and frees up space while meeting security and retention compliances. Archiving also includes positive enhancements of an automatic disaster recovery ensuring business continuity.

Backups help with short-term storage, whereas archive provides storage for the long-term. Such a case of long-term storage is essential for healthcare facilities to meet retention compliances. It must be noted that while a data archive can be used as an alternative for backups, the same cannot be done the other way round.

 

Reasons Why Your Organization Needs To Implement A Data Archival Strategy

Retention requirements mandated by federal and state laws must be adhered to by healthcare organizations, as the failure of such could result, in penalties, fines, loss of certification, and credibility for the facility.

Federal laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) require that any records associated with HIPAA be retained for a minimum of six years starting from when the HIPAA-compliant policies were first implemented. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cites 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to establish the minimum of a 7-year retention period for medical records following the Date of Service (DoS).

Each state in the US also has its own set of retention laws to be followed by healthcare facilities. Such state laws usually mandate that legacy data be retained between the duration of five to twenty-five or more years, depending on the state the organization is in, and the patient’s age. It is important to note that individual state regulations lean towards being more stringent on the question of data retention. States such as Washington, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Vermont require that records be kept for a minimum of ten years or more.

To comply with such statutory requirements, many healthcare facilities simply store legacy data in obsolete EHRs, as the process to extract, reformat, and convert legacy data can seem complex and costly. In reality, however, the disadvantages of paying an annual licensing fee, and application fee to maintain their EHRs can prove costly without any return of investment to the organization.

Also, storing legacy data in an old EHR makes it impossible to use. The legacy system gets vulnerable with time and its application and servers become a potential risk. The vulnerability of the system could cause a breach and result in the healthcare facility facing losses of millions of dollars in fines. The fines imposed by organizations such as HIPAA and OCR for such violations can be hefty. For instance, in 2018, the largest ever financial penalty of $16 million for HIPAA violations was paid by Anthem Inc to resolve potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule that were discovered by OCR during the investigation of its 78.8 million record data breach in 2015. Thus, such security problems can arise for the organization that opts to store their old data in EHRs, and this choice may serve exactly against the organization’s aim to meet governmental requirements and avoid fines or penalties.

Even if health care organizations decide that they want to convert their data from their legacy EHRs, it must be noted that such a process is a complex one, as converting data silos of different datasets and types without formatting or data management is not an easy task to accomplish. In fact, not all data that is converted will be compatible with the new system as it is not vendor-neutral like medical data archiving platforms. With data conversion, complete data integrity and easy data access are not completely possible. This defeats the purpose of transferring the data from the legacy system in the first place, unlike medical data archiving which focuses specifically on achieving such goals.

Let’s say, in a hypothetical situation, your organization’s legacy data is partially merged into the new systems after the data conversion. Some of your old data is then stored in your legacy systems due to incompatibility with the new systems.

Your organization might face the following challenges:

  • The EHR vendor decided to sunset their product
  • Your facility has a vertical or horizontal merger and acquisition
  • Your facility decides to relocate its base
  • The death of the physician who managed the legacy EHRs
  • The retirement of the physician who managed the legacy EHRs

Now, the questions that would arise in your mind should include:

  • How will your healthcare organization overcome such challenges with your older EHRs?
  • Is this something your organization can handle easily, without any incurring costs to your business or disruption to patient care with the help of your organization’s new system?

These are valid questions organizations must ask themselves and consider to fully understand how they will retain their legacy EHR records in the situations posed.

As a recommended practice to overcome all these challenges ranging from retention requirements to method of data transfer, every health care organization must create a strong data archival strategy. Such a strategy is particularly important, as data archival has a profound impact on the data lifecycle of an organization.

Active data archiving allows all records of different formats and data types to be moved into a single repository; thereby allowing the legacy EHRs to be decommissioned. By using a vendor-neutral solution, organizations can access and manage their legacy data easily, while meeting statutory requirements as well as keeping their continuity of care intact. This eliminates the challenges that healthcare facilities face in terms of retention requirements, operational and revenue workflows, system costs, and medical liability.

 

Best Practices for Data Archival

If an organization selects data archival as the best solution for their legacy data management strategy, their data is prioritized, and categorized into two types: the data that is required for current operational use and the data that can be archived in a single repository.

Once the organization’s data is categorized, the tool used to archive the legacy data must be selected based on the data volume and type of datasets. The legacy data can be archived by using various data archiving tools. This includes offline mediums such as tapes, discs, hard drives (HDDs), flash storage, and optical storage, or an online medium such as cloud-based archiving. Each of these options has its own set of benefits. To understand which of the archival tools is best for your organization, the amount and type of data being archived must be considered.

For health care organizations that usually store a large amount of data, a virtual archive such as a cloud-based archive is recommended as a solution compared to other long-term platforms. This is because a cloud-based archive has a long-term storage capability with a higher capacity than other offline mediums while being cost-effective. The offline mediums are also weaker, in terms of application, due to a lack of retrieval and analytics features compared to cloud-based solutions. In healthcare, interoperability is especially important for managing several systems, and a cloud-based archive that already has capabilities for standard and custom interfaces easily automates that process and fulfills that requirement.

Thus, a cloud-based archive is an optimal solution as it increases operational efficiency through its quick search capabilities and allows for easy retrieval of data. It also helps reduce the risk caused by vulnerable data through its strong security system that maintains audit logs and meets security compliances such as HIPAA, SOC2, etc.

Why adopting Healthcare Data Archiving Solutions can be a Game-Changer for your Business Strategy

There are several benefits of adopting a cloud-based archive as a part of your healthcare data archiving strategy. The benefits range from improved patient care, workflow efficiency, and enriched business revenue through improved revenue cycle management, security, and compliance, among others.

Here are some of the reasons an archival solution can be a game-changer for your business:

  • Cost-Efficiency
    • Eliminates maintenance and application costs of legacy systems
    • Decreases hardware and software costs
    • Decreases storage costs due architecture-efficient storage
    • Decreases future additional data costs due to scalability
    • Reduces training costs
    • Eliminates the risk of penalties by being 100% HIPAA, SOC2 compliant
  • Easy Operational Workflow
    • Allows easy retrieval and search of legacy data for release of information purposes
    • Provides visibility in a single location
    • Requires fewer resources to manage data
    • Increases operational efficiency
    • Provides valuable prediction insights using business analytics
  • Improved Security
    • Improves data security
    • Provides complete backup and recovery
  • Improved Care
    • Supports superior patient care
    • Enriches continuity of care
  • Return of Investment
    • Provides ROI within two years by eliminating application and maintenance costs
    • Soft ROI allows the reallocation of internal resources that were maintaining the prior system(s)
    • Optimizes workflow to consolidate multiple sources of data
  • Meets Statutory Requirements
    • Complies with federal retention laws such as HIPAA, OCR, CMS
    • Complies with state retention laws

Triyam can be the solution for all your data archival needs

Is your healthcare organization looking for a cloud-based solution to archive your legacy data?

Triyam helps various hospitals and health systems by archiving the historical patient data from legacy EHRs and thereby decommissioning legacy systems. This helps organizations stay compliant and save money. Triyam archives the legacy data in a vendor-neutral format in its SaaS product ‘Fovea EHR Archive.’ In Fovea, providers can easily search for a patient, view records, and download historical medical data. It is compliant with federal laws such as HIPAA, CMS, and state laws. Fovea helps organizations save money as it typically costs less than 25 percent of a legacy system.

Triyam can archive and host the data in two ways:

  • Cloud: Triyam hosts Fovea EHR Archive in Microsoft Azure, and organizations can access their data using it from any browser of any device, as well as several go-forward EHRs through API interfacing.
  • On-premise: The healthcare organization hosts Fovea EHR Archive locally within their Windows Server or virtual machine (VM) environment, which can also be integrated with go-forward EHRs.

A brief video on our Legacy EHR data archival solutions can be found here.

 

Triyam is named the Best In KLAS 2021 and 2022 in Data Archiving!

Triyam is named the winner of the Best In KLAS 2022 Award in Data Archiving by KLAS Research (and previously in 2021), as our healthcare data archiving solutions are the best in the market in terms of customer satisfaction.

According to the latest Best In KLAS 2022 performance report for June – ‘Data Archiving 2022: In a Competitive Market, Who Is Being Selected and Why,’ Triyam was the only vendor described to be highly considered and the most frequently chosen vendor by customers in the report sample, due to our affordable and flexible pricing and customer-centric sales and account management process.

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