Health / Pharma

How healthcare providers can preserve historical data during EHR migration

Electronic health records (EHR) migration is a challenging task for healthcare providers. Whether it’s moving to a new EHR platform or only switching from one platform to an advanced one, it requires careful planning.

First, let’s understand why data migration is needed in the first place. What do the providers need a new system for?

There can be several reasons why patient datasets need to be migrated to a new EHR system. A few instances are:

  •       The legacy EHR system is outdated and incurring unnecessarily high costs to run.
  •       If the firms in an M&A deal are using different EHR systems, it’s more efficient and cost-effective to have a single system for the entire entity.
  •       Within an organization, information silos may increase the possibility of dubious information and impact decision-making.

Any gaps while migrating this critical data can lead to lost or inaccurate health information. This would mean the inability of the doctors to ensure the optimal course of treatment for the patients and a direct adverse impact on the quality of care.

If the information transferred isn’t complete or accurate, it will also affect administration and workflows; thereby, causing difficulties in every department within the organization. Moreover, it can cause unexpected interruptions and loss of revenues.

So, how do you ensure an efficient migration strategy? Given below are a few important considerations to preserve the sanctity of healthcare data and make your migration strategy successful.

What are the parameters you’ve decided on data migration?

Big data migration is a complex task. Among the topmost considerations for a successful migration is scoping. It requires thorough planning about what kind of data sources you want to migrate and in what order, and how long it would take to complete the entire exercise. After all, these are years of clinical files and patients’ medical history. You have to sift through all of this information to answer questions like:

  •       What data would you need to migrate to the new EHR system? You don’t require every piece of information. It can unnecessarily cost you time and money.
  •       How many months’ or possibly years’ records you would have to store? Typically, past records for as long as five years may not be useful for you. You may want to review how frequently you’ve used historical data.
  •       Is it only the current patient records that you want to migrate, or would you also need to back up historical data?
  •       What kind of formats have you used for data entry? Is it just manual data entry or scanned images as well?

These and such other questions will help you narrow down the parameters and set your priorities. In this process, you should also prioritize the records for your regular patients.

Never fail to consider documentation methods

One of the biggest mistakes in migration planning is failing to consider different documentation methods. While planning the migration strategy, you should also factor in the documentation method of reports in the existing system.

It’s a different scenario altogether if you’re transferring large data sets from one electronic system to another. But in the case of migration from paper-based records or some other format to a new EHR system, the tasks become complex. Since health data comprises information in various formats such as scanned copies, paper-based notes, and speeches, there is no direct relationship between datasets. Therefore, it can be challenging to map it accurately through an electronic migration process.

There is a crucial need for human intervention as well for services like abstraction. Abstraction involves creating rules to retain the integrity of the clinical information. It’s a crucial part of the migration strategy for effective required conversion and mapping to facilitate insight-based decisions.

Make provisions for resource allocation and training

After you’ve decided the parameters for data to be migrated, the next crucial step would be allocating roles and responsibilities for clinical data entry in the new system. You’ll also have to create an easy-to-use yet comprehensive worksheet so that data entry is highly accurate. While determining the points of contacts and planning for required resources to do the job, make sure you’re allocating a sufficient amount of time for it.

After this step is complete and you’ve identified the resource for the job, the next step would be designing a proper training schedule so that he/she understands the purpose and importance of data migration. At the end of the training, they should know what kind of clinical records are critical in migrating to the new system.

It’s better to assign this responsibility to someone not directly involved in patient care. To prevent any hiccup in the care delivery, you may want to avoid involving your medical staff in this activity. Instead, it can be a member of your administrative teams like office receptionist or operations executive.

Put a robust review process in place

A robust and continuous quality testing process should be an indispensable part of the migration. Ensure that the system is meeting your expectations and delivering the desired value. You’ll need to confirm that all the information has been input correctly during the migration and the system has captured it properly. For this, an ongoing manual abstraction is crucial to fixing the issue of incomplete or incorrect migration.

It’s highly recommended to retain all clinical records for some time even after the migration is complete. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’ve destroyed all clinical records after it’s been transferred only to realize that the new EHR system isn’t functioning properly.

It should be a multistep review and may take months before you’re absolutely sure. Once the review is complete to your satisfaction, you can decide whether to keep your old clinical documents stored or discard them.

You may also want to hire a professional abstraction service provider for a glitch-free review system at every stage of migration and get a consistent and correct clinical data into the new system.

Conclusion

Since data migration is a complex and highly responsible task, it’s better to hire an external consultant to handle the entire process and provide continuous support throughout the migration process.

Large amounts of data are only good as long as its integrity is retained. As much as EHR migration is important, it poses certain risks to the integrity of the data. If not planned and managed well, these risks can jeopardize the purpose of the migration exercise by rendering the migration data unfit to use.

You should also remember that the importance of EHR data goes well beyond patient care. It’s used for various purposes across the organization and for each stakeholder, the data has unique importance. Therefore, it’s advisable to involve all of them in the migration strategy.

The considerations given above are a guidebook to ensure dependable EHR data after migration and enable you to realize the maximum advantages of the new EHR system. Using them along with meticulous planning will help them in terms of superior care delivery, more efficient workflows, improved administrative process, and cost reduction.

If you’re looking for trusted assistance to shift your data to a new EHR system or have any question about healthcare data migration, please feel free write to our health tech experts at TechJini. We are the IT partners for several healthcare organizations around the world.

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