Data Stewardship: 3 Things to Consider BEFORE Your Next EMR Implementation

It starts simply enough: Your organization meticulously matches platform capabilities to your organization’s needs and decides on a new EMR. You set the project schedule, took the system live and even optimized it to maximize user efficiency. Everything is perfect… okay, as perfect as any large system implementation can go… But, then, it happens. You remember that throughout all the planning, capability matching and optimizing, you forgot to think about your legacy data.

You’re not alone. After all, EMR vendors do port over a chunk of your legacy data. But they don’t move it all. And that means not all of the information that you’ll still need to be able to access and work with made it over to your new systems. Now you have various data structures scattered across multiple systems and databases. It’s a mess – and a costly one at that.

And, after completing a project as significant as an EMR implementation, many organizations choose to continue to support and maintain their legacy systems alongside their new systems rather than address the mess. However, with the right planning tools, and a little forethought, your organization can avoid that mess entirely.

Here are three things to do before implementing a new EMR and shutting down legacy systems:

1) Take Inventory

This is perhaps the most crucial step in the implementation of a new EMR system. You have to take the time to understand exactly what you have in terms of hardware, software applications, and data. What type of servers do you have? Where are they hosted? In terms of the databases within those servers, how big are they? And what, exactly, do they contain? Who will need access to these databases in the future? An additional consideration, often driven by information governance, is what data would you like to keep (i.e., what would be nice to have) versus what data you must keep to maintain legal compliance?

2) Revisit your Retention Policy

HIPAA mandates organizations retain medical records for a minimum of six years, but many state policies extend far beyond this. When implementing a new EMR system, be sure that your organization’s record retention policy is crystal clear. Keeping the data for the required amount of time isn’t enough. Know how long you’ll need to maintain access to and the integrity of your legacy data. Your information governance policies and procedures will ultimately drive how users will access legacy records and applications.

3) Keep the End Goal in Mind

When migrating systems and data architectures, you should keep in mind your end goal: Reduce complexity by shutting down duplicative and/or outdated legacy systems to streamline your IT infrastructure. Fewer servers decreases the amount of data strung across organizational resources, making that data more secure and more manageable. Overall, shrinking that IT stack reduces the risk of losing data, not to mention lowering your operating costs. With more robust, accessible data across your organization, your user experience will improve, too.

Now, no one is assigning blame for anyone’s “mess” here. EMR implementations are huge undertakings with the highest of stakes and it’s no wonder that many organizations focus solely on the new EMR without a thought for what to do with the old ones or the data they contain.

However, as good data stewards, it’s on you to look at the whole picture. And, by using these three tips to start conversations about your legacy data needs early, you’ll be well on your way to helping your organization handle the challenges that come your way.

Have any projects, experiences, or questions you’d like to share? Any ideas you may want to co-blog about? If so, let me know in the comments section or feel free to email me @ Dr.Kel@mediquantone.com.

I’m Dr. Kel Pults, your Blog host. Stay on the lookout for our next piece on Data Stewardship. Until then, like, share and/or comment on this post!