Data Conversion, Data Migration and Archiving: A Holistic Data Management Plan Involves Them All!

The terms data conversion and data migration are often used interchangeably. And, while this is incorrect, there are plenty of blogs and articles out there explaining the difference between converting data (changing it from one format to another) and migrating data (permanently moving data from one location to another) that will set you straight.

Rather than add to the conversation about their definitions, we’re going to talk about why it’s not enough to talk about data conversion or data migration without also considering data archiving.

Before you begin an EMR conversion project or make another significant IT infrastructure purchase – say a new ERP or Patient Accounting system – you must have clear information governance policies supporting a holistic data stewardship plan. You’ll want to know what data you want to convert to the new system’s format, what data you’ll migrate, and also your plan for your legacy data.

Standard vs. Active Archives

When considering an archival repository for your legacy data, you’ll have to know your data. The type of legacy data, how it’s used and how it fits into your long-term data management plan, will determine the type of archive solution you’ll need. A standard archive effectively stores rarely-to-seldomly accessed legacy data and ensures your organization remains in compliance. An active archiving solution also stores your legacy data, but allows authorized users to continue to access and work with it. With an active archive platform, your staff can more easily respond to audits and your clinicians can access patient records from within your organization’s newly deployed systems.

Generally speaking an active archive is superior to a standard archive simply because it’s more forward thinking. Maybe you don’t need to access that data today, but what about in the future? Short-term fixes to get your EMR live may not be the best approach. Here are some possible use cases to think about – and, by doing so, you may also discover some of the “requirements” driving your short-term data plan aren’t really necessary at all:  

  • How will your providers need to use the data, both now, and in the future state? How will that change and what does that mean for you?

  • What compliance or legal considerations are there?

  • What type of statistics and research will require this data, both now and in the future?

  • Will you be moving to an HIE in the future?

  • What analytics initiatives are on the horizon for your organization?

This type of big-picture, long-term thinking is what we mean by taking a holistic approach to data management. Taking a step back and planning for what the data could be used for will help you choose your archive approach with more confidence. After all, it isn’t enough to simply store your data. As a good Data Steward with a holistic data management plan, you’re ensuring its value to your organization now and well into the future.


Dr. Shelly Disser   VP, Solution Delivery & Client Advocacy

Dr. Shelly Disser
VP, Solution Delivery & Client Advocacy

About the Author:

Dr. Shelly Disser began developing strategies, methodologies and processes to enable health enterprises to efficiently archive, manage and activate legacy data more than 20 years ago. She founded one of the first data archiving companies for the health sector, competing solely with MediQuant. Shelly led the company for 15 years, selling it in 2014 to develop her own consulting firm for healthcare services. In 2017, Shelly joined her old competitor MediQuant to help lead the company supporting client advocacy. Today, this industry leader is vice president of solution delivery – offering her expertise in management, data strategy and analysis.