The healthcare sector has amassed so many assets, technologies, systems, and physical and virtual environments over the years that it is now virtually flooded with outdated healthcare software. This includes legacy data archiving (patient histories, personal records, internal data, etc.)

Now, if you have to keep legacy systems running to store your data, you know your vulnerabilities. Large healthcare systems and other industries typically have numerous applications, from EHRs to ERPs to business intelligence platforms. These legacy systems that are still in operation today are actually major roadblocks for most companies.

There is an ongoing need to retain data to comply with record retention policies, and the need to analyze this data to develop predictive models or other information. The problem is that legacy systems may not integrate with your application. Additionally, it may no longer be supported, especially if it is a deprecation of potentially compromised software.

So, what’s your legacy data management plan?

  1. What is legacy data in healthcare?
  2. What is legacy data management?
  3. What data do you need to retain?
  4. What are the legacy data management options?
  5. Challenges of legacy data management.

What is legacy data in healthcare?

Archiving legacy data enables cost-effective data storage. At the same time, specialists and executives can always access all stored data and save a lot of hardware space through data archiving, useful for storing all inactive data. It allows them to access only the direct data that is currently requested and needed. Data archiving is also an integral part of the complete modernization of traditional healthcare data systems.

What is legacy data management?

Whether implementing a new EMR or acquiring another system to integrate with the EMR, most healthcare systems typically do not have a comprehensive legacy management plan in place. Transformations are often well thought out, but data abstraction and archiving are usually poorly planned. In fact, many deployment organizations assume that the cost and maintenance of legacy systems will simply be eliminated.  Ideally, elements of legacy data management should be addressed as part of the overall EMR implementation or integration project. We see more and more customers demanding a more comprehensive solution.

KLAS Research reports that 85% of healthcare organizations that choose to retire systems and archive data have a positive financial impact. The costs associated with maintaining legacy systems make legacy data projects easier to justify. However, due to the complexity of healthcare IT environments, the number of disparate systems, and the heavy lifting involved in extracting and mapping data, these initiatives are easier said than done.

What data do you need to retain?

  • What are the legal and regulatory requirements for legacy data retention in the state in which the healthcare facility operates? Be sure to document patient information requirements and other necessary data such as financial and personnel records.
  • How long should your data be retained?
  • What data should and should not be stored? Who is responsible for overseeing these requirements in your organization? The amount and type of data you keep affect the cost of your strategy. A strategy must balance the cost of determining what needs to be kept with the cost of keeping data that does not need to be kept.

What are the legacy data management options?

Depending on how legacy data will be used, there are multiple options that allow organizations to completely decommission these old systems and provide improved operability.

Converting Legacy Data – Sometimes you may want to migrate legacy data to a new system. Data transformations make this step easier. Due to data complexity, privacy and security regulations, and structure, this is not an easy process. Data transformation, especially in healthcare, is a special area. It’s more than copy and paste. Field mapping, encryption, and validation are all critical to successful data transformation.

Archive of Legacy Data – Many healthcare organizations choose to archive legacy data, allowing easy access to patient records, images, and other data items with a secure web-based archiving tool. With data archiving, you can completely eliminate legacy systems, saving time and money. Note, however, that not all legacy archive systems are created equal. There are important questions to ask yourself when choosing a platform.

Migrating Legacy Data-  A third option is to move the legacy data to a completely different application. Legacy EHR datasets may need to be shared with decision support systems or chronic disease management platforms. In this case, it’s not really a conversion, as you’re not mapping it to a system that works the same. Instead, you should contact your data-sharing provider. Data sharing should enable a seamless and compliant exchange to merge new data in this new application. This may require custom programming to ensure accuracy and modify records accordingly. Your legacy data may help you with the big-picture questions you are trying to solve. It’s not obsolete or in need of a purge; it simply needs to be moved to serve a greater purpose.

Challenges of Legacy Data Management

Integration Issues – Most healthcare organizations cannot afford to upgrade all hardware and software completely and simultaneously, so new system components must be integrated with legacy system elements. This can be a major challenge, as is keeping all your company’s processes running smoothly during system integration.

Uninterrupted Operation – With physicians working on busy schedules, clinics and independent physicians are willing to accept zero downtime, even when implementing potentially beneficial solutions that reduce manual entry and administrative burdens. However, upgrading legacy systems can disrupt established workflows and processes. Minimizing these disruptions while migrating to a new system can be a real challenge.

Ensuring Data Security and Avoiding Data Loss – Another challenge is avoiding data loss when migrating to a new system. Healthcare organizations are bound by HIPAA regulations to ensure best-in-class data security, and preventing loss or theft of patient data in transit is also a key concern.

Staff Support and Understanding – Most people find the need to change their routine uncomfortable. Even when change is beneficial, clinical and administrative staff may actively or passively resist change.

Cost – It is no secret that upgrading legacy systems requires an investment. Organizations do not need to process all expenses at once, as they can usually be done in stages. Still, careful planning is required to ensure that technology upgrades do not put an undue strain on an organization’s budget.