The past decade has witnessed an accelerated closure of critical access hospitals (CAHs). In January 2019, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration reported that 95 rural hospitals had closed since 2010, with 32 of these being CAHs.[i] About 20 percent of Americans depend on rural hospitals for their healthcare services[ii] and the pandemic has magnified this need, with CAHs stepping up to alleviate pressure on larger hospitals. According to the American Hospital Association, Congress took action last year with several COVID-19 relief bills for rural hospitals, but more is needed.[iii]

How can legacy data archiving help?

Like all hospitals, CAHs rely on electronic medical records (EMRs) to deliver seamless patient care, secure reimbursement and comply with legal and regulatory requirements. But when it’s time to convert to a new EMR, either because of a merger or the desire to upgrade, legacy data archiving is typically last on the list of considerations. Often, those older clinical and accounting files are left running on the old EMR, necessitating costly maintenance fees and extra staff time to manage and access records. To compound this, sometimes hospitals have multiple legacy systems running at the same time.

CAHs may worry about the cost of fancy archiving solutions that are commonly used by large hospitals and health systems. But there is another way. Critical access hospitals don’t need to invest in the same-level archives as their urban counterparts. For example, they don’t require extensive longitudinal patient data. But they can benefit from newer archiving solutions created with them and their budget in mind.

Knowing these solutions are available is one part of the equation. Here are some tips for a smooth legacy data archiving experience.

Plan Ahead

The best time to create a legacy data archiving plan is when CAHs are creating their EMR transition plan. Build in time to gather your team, find the right vendor partner and develop a strategy. Look for a partner with experience and streamlined solutions tailormade for CAHs. Some even bundle other services along with the archiving package, such as CAH-tailored data conversion and other technical services to manage the shift between EMRs.

Right Team/Right Decisions

Are you involved in an organizational transaction and transition or upgrading to a new EMR? Or have you decided to clean house and consolidate multiple disparate legacy systems? What information do your teams need and when? Make sure that the EMR transition team takes data archiving into account and includes key stakeholders beyond HIT specialists, such as representatives from the clinical, accounting and legal departments. 

Eyes Wide Open

A partner that is experienced and adaptive to individualized solutions that can be developed side by side with the CAH team is the only way to optimize data management at an affordable rate. Such a partner will guide your hand and ensure that you have a complete understanding of the plan, responsibilities, deliverables and associated timeline.

There are currently an estimated 1,400 U.S. critical access hospitals providing valuable services to their communities. Though it may not be the first solution that comes to mind, legacy data archiving can assist CAHs in saving money and time while optimizing compliance and effectiveness.

[i] Rural Hospital Programs. Health, Resources & Services Administration. November 2020. Accessed February 12, 2021. https://www.hrsa.gov/rural-health/rural-hospitals

[ii] RURAL REPORT Challenges Facing Rural Communities and the Roadmap to Ensure Local Access to High-quality, Affordable Care. American Hospital Association. February 2019. Accessed February 12, 2021.

[iii] What’s next for rural hospitals? Additional COVID-19 relief and beyond. Tom Nickels. American Hospital Association. November 18, 2020. Accessed February 12, 2021. https://www.aha.org/news/blog/2020-11-18-whats-next-rural-hospitals-additional-covid-19-relief-and-beyond

Marley Kuehl

Marley Kuehl

Corporate Director of Strategic Partnerships

About the Author:
As a former CIO herself, Marley Kuehl, Corporate Director, Strategic Partners at MediQuant, is an experienced healthcare IT strategist who specializes in creating unique collaborations and solutions to manage the evolving needs of U.S. hospitals and health systems.