Healthcare Data Archiving Methods: Options and Considerations

What’s Involved in Archiving Legacy Medical Data

Healthcare data archives are typically driven by EMR/EHR changes, acquisitions, or physician retirement. If your practice is going through any of these transitions, it is a great time to make a healthcare data archive plan. Your old system contains valuable data that must be preserved, but it carries maintenance costs and security burdens. The best way to maintain access to the data you need to reference and still eliminate maintenance  and security concerns is through data migration and archival.

Why archive?

You may have the option to move some portion of your legacy data to your new system. But simply migrating basic data often does not satisfy data retention requirements; the migrated version is often incomplete or not faithful to the original data in other ways. Additionally, many vendors will only commit to importing a bare subset of data, and almost never agree to import detailed financial records. To ensure you have the data you need for ongoing medical record requests and financial records, a thorough data archive is the best choice.

What’s involved in healthcare data archiving?

Step 1: Data Extraction – Getting Data Out of your Legacy System

Your data extraction approach depends on where your data is stored.

  • Is your data in the cloud or locally hosted? Is it in a standard or proprietary database?
  • Is the data encrypted or encoded?
  • Do you have data stored in ancillary systems such as EKG machines and ultrasound equipment that also needs to be extracted?

A reputable healthcare data archive partner can guide you through these questions to help you select the most cost-effective, thorough, and efficient data extraction path. In some cases, you may be required to request the data from your old software vendor.

Step 2: Data Transformation – Getting the Data in the Form you Need

Once you have the data you need to archive and/or migrate, it is important to convert the data into a form that makes sense for your archive use cases and/or to fit your new system.  One of the biggest decisions is whether to create a static image of each record; or to archive as discrete data so that there is flexibility to present it as needed down the road. Doing both is often the prudent way to go. The complete fixed image offers compliance as it cannot be altered; having the archive in discrete data form means  custom reports based on the data can be run at a later date.

Step 3: Data Access and Storage – Determining Where to Store Data  

When creating a data archive, you can choose to house the data in a stand-alone application, use an existing document management system, or use a cloud solution. Remember: Data archives are subject to HIPAA and security considerations, so it is important that you have a robust strategy to control user access, logging, and reporting.

Considerations for Data Archive Storage Choices:

  • Existing Document Management System likely already has user and access control parameters built in.
  • Stand-alone Application can be a simple viewer application, or a more comprehensive system with access control, but may require IT resources to create and manage.
  • Cloud Storage is managed by an archive vendor and requires no internal IT resources. This option does have ongoing management costs, but they are typically far less than maintaining the legacy system.

A healthcare data archive specialist can help you determine the best choice for your data and your facility. They will be able to help create a data storage plan that takes into account:

  • User tracking
  • Data storage (backups, extracted stores, modeled documents, etc.)
  • End-user accessibility
  • Security
  • Selective sunsetting of the archive as the data in the archive ages

KEY TAKEAWAYS

If you are changing EMR/EHR, navigating an acquisition, or preparing to retire—data migration and archiving is important to the ongoing security, compliance, and resource use of your practice. A reputable and experienced healthcare data archive vendor can help you decide the best method to extract, convert, and store your healthcare data, allowing  you to preserve and access the data you need, securely and reliably. Working with a healthcare data expert can help your practice save time, money, and eliminate security risk.

Need help with data migration or archiving? Learn more about Micro-Office Systems data migration and archiving services.