Data retention is exactly what it sounds like – storing or retention of data. Many healthcare facilities retain their data for a specific amount of time, as it helps in being compliant to providing historical information to providers and patients whenever required. This process may sound simple, but it is instead hidden under several layers of requirements that are necessary.
It’s not just the mandated requirements that should make your facility consider retaining your data. Data is precious and what you do with it, can make a huge difference to your facility’s growth. So, it is essential to understand why data retention is important and how you should retain data.
Therefore, let’s take a look at why it is essential for healthcare facilities to retain their legacy data and what are their best options to do so.
Why healthcare facilities must retain their data
- The exponential growth of data in healthcare
One of the major reasons retention has become essential is due to the exponential growth of data. When the healthcare industry started moving from paper to digital storage, healthcare facilities had to upscale and store data from previous years while also dealing with the growth of data in the future. The graph below shows the growth in healthcare data in electronic format. Regulations require data retention for five or more years. So, if you are in year 2018, data from 2013 to 2017 has to be retained at a minimum. Adding up these, as shown in the stacked bar graph of 2017, is a huge volume of data, and even larger than the data growth in future years.
This movement has caused facilities to deal with long term data storage both structured and unstructured. The specialty about all this data, especially old data kept by your facility, is not what it had done in the past, but what it can be used for in the future.
Thus, there is a need for facilities to retain all of this ‘growing data’ in a place that is easily accessible, which in a long run could save the facility time, space, and money.
- The Federal, State, and legal requirements
Other important reasons for retention are the state and federal laws, medical association policies, and organizational procedures. It is almost essential to follow these, as the failure of compliance to these laws could cause major issues for your facility in the future.
For instance, if a patient requires certain information about themselves, but your facility had deleted all that data due to the lack of space for new data, that patient is eligible to litigate. This may lead to your facility paying fines, penalties, and losing critical certifications. All of this can simply be avoided by retention of your legacy data.
As a healthcare facility, you need to be careful to oblige with your federal and state laws.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 requires you to keep medical records for six years from the date of creation.
The Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires your facility to maintain cost reports for at least five years after the closure of the financial account. Patient files must be retained for ten years in their original form to comply with CMS.
Healthcare facilities must be careful while dealing with their state laws as they usually tend to be most stringent. State laws also mandate individual access to medical records for consumers within a set time frame, which is a provision of HIPAA.
You can check out the state laws about your healthcare facility here. By clicking on each state, you can find out your facility’s specific state retention laws. Also, information regarding the minimum retention is provided here.
For further information, consult with your compliance office, accountant, or HIPAA director to better understand the Federal, IRS, and state-specific requirements that you must meet.
We have also made a comparison below to show the more restrictive requirements.
What options do healthcare facilities have to retain data
Once your facility is sure of retaining their data, the immediate question that arises is how one retains that data. So, let us take a look at the options that your facility must consider while retaining data.
- Retaining all legacy data
To retain data, your healthcare facility needs to identify which of your data is active and inactive.
An active data is data that your facility uses daily. For example, ROI requests, audits, quality reviews, etc.,
An inactive data is data that is rarely used and kept either for reference or due to retention laws. This could also be your facilities, ‘legacy data.’
Once you have identified the difference between the two, you need to retain your legacy data as a healthcare facility.
Active data will be the data that your facility will use daily and require in your present system all the time. What’s important, however, is what your facility does with its inactive data. For instance, your inactive data could be retained by your facilities, but in turn, would barely be accessed and would eat a large amount of space. This would increase your facility’s cost and manpower. Thus, it is important to also consider an option that retains your data while being cost-efficient and saving your space.
A wrong choice made in method of retention might also put data at risk as it will not be thoroughly secure. For instance, a legacy server might age out and could crash causing data loss and liability. Therefore essentially, healthcare facilities must consider a secure way to retain data.
- Migrating your legacy data into an EHR
Your facility may also consider migrating all their data to another EHR as an option. Data structures of legacy and new systems seldom match up. So moving data in this method can be expensive and compromise on data quality.
- Using an Archival Solution
To get an optimal result with data retention, it would be recommended to move your legacy data into an ‘archival solution’.
An archive is a separate system from your new EHR, which can be accessed independently. Archiving your legacy data into an archival solution can enable your facility to start from a clean slate, in an organized manner, and in a way that is easy and efficient to access.
While considering an archival solution, it would be recommended to have certain unique features such as the following:
- It should be in a vendor-neutral format
- You should be able to see a single person linked to multiple MRNs (EMPI)
- It should be easy and efficient to use
- It should have easy access, such as a button inside the new EHR
- It should save money and be more secure
About Triyam and its archival solution, ‘Fovea’
Triyam is a leading provider of EMR/EHR Data Management Solutions, with a specific focus on legacy data archival and retention. Triyam’s data conversion services help hospitals and clinics to freely migrate from one EHR vendor to another without losing any historical patient data. They help hospitals shut down legacy systems and save money while meeting state-mandated retention requirements.
Triyam’s product, ‘Fovea’, offers an active archive for compliance, continuity of care, Release of Information, A/R winddown, and analytics. Fovea offers a competitive pricing structure that scales to your facility’s needs.