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When approaching a transition from a legacy system to a new Electronic Health Record (EHR) solution, hospital CIOs can find it a daunting process to know where to begin. It’s perfectly understandable. There is so much to consider, to plan for, and to budget, that finding the first step is often the most difficult part.


In many cases, CIOs decide to assign project management and coordination to a larger team, asking them to map out all the deliverables, dependencies, stakeholders and to essentially perform the project management due diligence, which includes timelines and milestones. At this point, what is often left out is the need to understand what happens towards the end of the implementation; what to do with the financial, patient and technical data from the legacy system or systems, how to turn them off and subsequently dispose of those systems and legacy data?

Organizations should begin their legacy decommissioning processes with the end of the system in mind, as in doing so, they will find they need more time and budget than previously expected. Once a legacy system is shut down and the support services are no longer needed, what happens to the patient data can be a complex question to answer. Complexities of systems, data types, uses of patient data and regulatory requirements must all be considered before data is archived or disposed.

An effective legacy data archiving strategy requires organizations to understand which data must be kept for operational, regulatory and legal reasons, and what the financial and technical impacts will be after the new EHR goes live. Once the data has been inventoried, application Subject Matter Experts will need to access the data in each system and map it for extraction and conversion. Regulatory requirements define the type and historical duration of much of the data retention, but the organization will also need to consider user demand. Guidelines for extended use of older records should also be established.

On the financial side, the legacy systems may have Accounts Receivable (AR) records of unpaid debt that hospitals will not want to turn off. These and other systems may require that hospitals pay for additional staff to maintain these select legacy systems longer, until the debts are reconciled and system can be decommissioned.

Top 3 Benefits of a Data Archival Strategy

IT organizations within hospital settings can benefit from implementing archiving strategies by understanding that it could reduce costs, improve compliance and provide knowledge retention.

Reduce costs- By planning ahead, hospitals can partner with vendors that offer a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis. Most models are expected to yield positive results, so the results are only meaningful if you agree with both the data input and the underlying premises of the TCO model.

Compliance- As mentioned earlier, requirements and legal liability of data in the healthcare industry are key reasons to implement a data archiving strategy. Understanding the risks and compliance issues per data type as it relates to state and federal laws is the key to an effective data archiving strategy.

Knowledge retention- Data archiving strategies require organizations to map all data, and the sources containing the data. This level of analysis and discovery, if conducted in the beginning stages of the EHR implementation, can help facilitate the EHR implementation by creating the legacy system knowledge that the new EHR will need to eventually assimilate.

When approaching a transition from a legacy system to new EHR solution, hospital CIOs may be at a loss at where to begin. But by following these tips can go a long way to successfully implementing the new EHR.

Harvey Pearce has more than 20 years of executive and leadership experience in the healthcare and finance industry and more than 25 years developing and running IT support organizations. Harvey has a consistent record of enhancing sales, margin, and profit growth in large organizations. Harvey is currently the Operational & Legacy Support Practice Vice-President for Leidos Health. In 4 years he has built the practice into a multi-million annual revenue stream, providing long term engagements for 100+ consultants and developing new services in the Healthcare market including, Clinical Service Desk, A/R rundown services and legacy data extraction and conversion. Harvey originally hails from England, UK but now resides in Texas with his wife and three children as a new citizen of the United States.