As a healthcare organization, you generate massive amounts of data every single day. Patient records, test results, billing information—the list goes on and on. You know how important data is in healthcare. All that data needs to be properly stored and secured, not just for regulatory compliance but also so you can access information when you need it.
Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations don’t have a robust data archiving solution in place. Instead, they rely on outdated methods like storing data on-premise with limited redundancy or backup. This exposes the organization to risks like data loss or corruption, security breaches, and non-compliance penalties.
It’s time to get smart about healthcare data archiving. A modern solution reduces risks, cuts costs, and even uncovers new insights to improve patient care. In this article, we’ll explore why healthcare organizations need a data archiving solution, how to choose the right one, and the benefits of getting your data archiving strategy right.
The Exponential Growth of Healthcare Data
The amount of data in healthcare is exploding. According to estimates, the volume of healthcare data increases at a rate of 48% per year. Increased use of electronic health records, medical imaging, remote patient monitoring devices, and other digital tools drives this exponential growth.
All this data needs to be properly stored and archived. If not managed well, it can lead to expanding costs, security risks, and an inability to leverage data for improving patient care. Healthcare organizations must implement robust data archiving solutions to address these challenges.
Healthcare organizations need robust data archiving solutions to efficiently and cost-effectively store the rapidly growing volumes of healthcare data in a secure manner while ensuring easy access for improved utilization. The benefits of archiving are substantial and the need urgent. No healthcare organization can afford to ignore data archiving any longer.
The need for long-term data retention
Many types of healthcare data—like patient records, medical images, clinical trial data, etc.—need to be retained for decades to meet legal and regulatory requirements. Traditional data storage solutions are not designed for extended usage and can become expensive over time. Data archiving solutions use storage media optimized for long-term data retention at a lower cost.
Improved data security
When archived, data is stored in an immutable format with strict access controls. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to access or modify the data, reducing security risks like data breaches, ransomware attacks, or accidental data deletion. Archived data also serves as a backup in case live systems go down, ensuring business continuity.
Better data access
Advanced data archiving solutions provide fast and easy access to archived data through search and retrieval capabilities. This allows healthcare organizations to tap into their data archives to support day-to-day operations, research, compliance, legal needs, and more. With the data neatly organized and accessible, new insights can be gained to improve patient care, clinical outcomes and operational efficiency.
Regulatory Requirements for Archiving Clinical Data
Healthcare organizations have to follow strict regulations for archiving patient data. As a covered entity under HIPAA, you must retain records for at least 6 years from the date of creation or last use, whichever is later.
Electronic health records
When it comes to electronic health records (EHRs), you need to keep everything from patient demographics and insurance information to prescriptions, lab results, images, and more. The best approach is to archive your entire EHR database.
Billing and insurance records
Billing, claims, and insurance records also fall under HIPAA and must be kept for a minimum of 6 years. It’s a good idea to archive records related to payments, coverage, denials, appeals, and other financial documents.
While not directly related to patient care, business records like contracts, communications, and accounting information may contain personal details and should be archived. A 7-year retention period is common.
Some states have additional rules for retaining and destroying healthcare records. Make sure you understand regulations in your state and keep records for the longest required time period.
Even after required retention periods expire, you may want to keep records longer in case of liability issues. Lawsuits can be filed for up to 10 years in some areas, so archiving records for at least that long, or permanently, ensures you have necessary documentation should legal questions arise.
With the right data archiving solution in place, staying on top of healthcare regulations and best practices for retaining records doesn’t have to be complicated. Protecting patient privacy and your organization’s best interests is worth the investment.
The Benefits of Data Archiving for Healthcare Organizations
Healthcare organizations have a lot to gain from implementing a robust data archiving solution. Here are some of the main benefits:
- Improved Data Security– With increasing threats of cyber attacks and data breaches, healthcare organizations need to take every precaution to secure patient data. Archiving historical data that is no longer actively used reduces vulnerabilities. Archived data is stored offline, protecting it from unauthorized access or hacking. Strict access controls allow only authorized users to access and retrieve archived data.
- Cost Savings- Healthcare organizations accumulate massive amounts of data over time. Storing all of this data indefinitely can become prohibitively expensive. Archiving data that is no longer frequently used or accessed significantly reduces storage costs. Archived data is compressed and stored in a cost-efficient manner.
- Regulatory Compliance Healthcare organizations must comply with regulations like HIPAA that mandate data retention requirements. A data archiving solution helps ensure that data is retained for the appropriate length of time and then disposed of properly according to federal policy. This avoids penalties for violating data retention regulations.
- Improved Efficiency– When less data is stored online and actively managed, healthcare organizations can operate more efficiently. Large amounts of data slows down systems and makes it difficult to find information quickly. Archiving historical data declutters active systems and databases so that current data is more easily accessible and manageable.
In summary, data archiving solutions offer many benefits for healthcare organizations including improved security, cost savings, compliance, and efficiency. For any healthcare organization, a data archiving strategy is essential. By archiving data that is no longer actively used, healthcare organizations reduce costs and risks while continuing to maintain the data that really matters.
Key Features of Robust Healthcare Data Archiving Solutions
Healthcare organizations need robust data archiving solutions for several key reasons. As a healthcare provider, you need to securely store patient data for many years to comply with regulations and provide the best care.
- Accessibility– A good archiving solution makes data readily available when you need it. Whether accessing a patient’s historical records or compiling statistics, data should be searchable and easy to find. Quickly look up patient information by name, date of service, or other parameters via a solution with fast search capabilities.
- Scalability– As your organization and patient base grows, your data storage needs will also increase. A scalable solution expands over time to accommodate more data so you have room for all patient records, images, and other files well into the future. Scalable storage ensures you never have to delete or move patient data to make room for new information.
- Security– Robust security protects sensitive patient data and ensures HIPAA compliance. Look for solutions with built-in security features like encryption, access control, auditing, and data integrity checks. Encryption scrambles data so only authorized users can read it. Strict access controls limit data access to approved staff. Auditing and logging provide a record of who accessed patient data and when. Data integrity checks verify that files remain intact and unaltered.
- Long-term viability– For long-term care and compliance, you need an archiving solution that will last for decades. Look for vendors that specialize in healthcare and have a proven track record of supporting medical data storage needs for extended periods. Solutions should also allow for easy data migration in case you switch systems in the future.
Healthcare organizations require data archiving solutions that provide accessible, scalable, and secure long-term storage for patient information. Comprehensive solutions allow you to focus on patient care rather than managing data storage and regulations. With the right archiving approach, you can rest assured patient data remains protected and available when needed.
Implementing a Clinical Data Archival Strategy: Best Practices
To properly implement a clinical data archiving strategy, there are several best practices healthcare organizations should follow:
Invest in the right technology
Choose an archiving solution that meets your needs for storage capacity, security, and data integrity. Look for a system that is scalable, allows for quick data retrieval, and has built-in redundancy to avoid data loss. The archiving software should also have robust access controls to comply with HIPAA regulations.
Determine what to archive
Not all clinical data needs to be archived indefinitely. Focus on information that is clinically relevant, high-risk, or required for legal and regulatory compliance. This could include patient records, test results, medical images, billing records, insurance information, etc. Establish clear policies on data retention periods based on data type.
Standardize data formats
To make retrieval and access efficient, data should be archived in a consistent format. This means standardizing how information is organized, tagged, and stored from multiple internal systems and sources. Standards like HL7 FHIR can help facilitate interoperability between health IT systems and data archiving platforms.
Audit and monitor regularly
Conduct frequent audits of your archiving system to check that all components are functioning properly, security controls are working, and data integrity is maintained. Monitor who accesses data and how it’s being used to avoid improper access or use. Regular testing of data retrieval and restoration processes is also important to ensure critical patient information can be accessed when needed.
Educate clinicians, health IT teams, compliance officers, and other relevant staff on archiving policies, procedures, and their specific responsibilities. Proper training helps facilitate adoption of the archiving solution and ensures it is used effectively and consistently across the organization. Staff should understand what data is being archived, how to access it, and how to maintain patient privacy and security.
By following these recommended practices, healthcare groups can develop an effective and comprehensive clinical data archiving strategy. A well-designed data archiving solution and program helps organizations reduce costs, improve efficiencies, meet regulatory requirements, and optimize the use of health information for better patient care.
So there you have it. As you can see, healthcare organizations have a lot to gain by investing in comprehensive data archiving solutions. Not only do they ensure critical patient data and records are preserved, protected, and easily accessible for decades to come, but they also help healthcare organizations comply with regulations and avoid costly penalties.
At the end of the day, data archiving solutions give healthcare organizations peace of mind that their patients’ information is safe and secure for the long haul. What could be more important than that? If you work for a healthcare organization, do yourself and your patients a favor and make data archiving a top priority. You’ll be glad you did.