Written by: Shelly Disser, DBA
Vice President, Innovation and Collaboration Team, MediQuant

Archiving data is never a simple process. That’s especially true for EHRs, which contain vast amounts of critical patient information alongside years of financial data used to plot trends and perform historical accounting. Hospitals trying to archive data stored in Epic systems find this undertaking even more difficult because there is no standard way to perform Epic data extraction.

Epic data archiving is uncommon mostly because it’s somewhat rare for hospitals to move from an Epic system to another EHR. Additionally, Epic offers robust interfaces to third-party systems, reducing the need for data extraction. Nevertheless, there are certainly times when hospitals need to perform an Epic data archival, including mergers in which hospitals using different versions of Epic must be integrated.

Here are three steps that can help hospital IT departments with extracting data from Epic and other legacy systems.

1. Understand Your Epic Data Archive Goals

Hospitals retain information for regulatory and legal reasons (in addition to its usefulness to accountants and clinicians) so the data needing extraction may have resided in dozens of IT systems over many years. Use policies and software configurations likely changed during that time, affecting the database’s integrity, not to mention that formats and data-storage paradigms tend to change as vendors improve their platforms.

Based on the data’s age and the hospital’s retention policies, stakeholders including IT, clinicians, and financial executives will need to decide how much should be retained. They’ll also need a plan for the Epic data extraction, where data will be stored and in what format, and how authorized users will access it. Note that it may be possible to limit the amount of data needing to be extracted and archived by understanding data use-cases and setting purge policies (or adhering to existing ones).

Clear goals and carefully crafted legacy-data policies are important regardless of the type of system being considered for archiving.

2. Check Data Quality and System Needs

Most hospitals work with a trusted technology partner on projects such as an EHR archive because of the size and complexity of the databases involved. In all cases (a merger or vendor change), it’s crucial to select a partner with significant Epic data extraction experience. 

Epic does not allow hospitals to pull data directly from Epic’s MUMPS database (newer iterations are built using the IRIS data platform); it must be moved to one of Epic’s reporting platforms. In many cases, hospitals can extract Epic data via their Clarity database, which runs on a Microsoft SQL platform. However, hospitals must first make sure the database contains all the records for the years needing archiving and has the necessary data elements. If that’s not the case, the hospital can either add the required elements to the Clarity database themselves or pay a vendor to enhance it (either Epic or a third party).

There have also been instances of corruption within the Clarity database that the hospital is unaware of. This is fairly common because hospitals are typically concerned with data generated in the past year or two and may not realize that portions of older data were never moved to Clarity. 

Most hospitals don’t have the bandwidth or expertise to perform this work, but it’s critical that the chosen vendor is highly sensitive to the relationship the hospital has with Epic. In some cases, Epic is losing a customer, so the vendor must fully understand those implications. In other cases, the acquiring hospital is going to remain a customer, so the vendor should tread lightly to ensure good relations between all parties. 

A trusted partner with deep knowledge of Epic systems can help the hospital establish the quality of the database ahead of time. Based on their experience with Epic health data archiving as well as rev cycle, ERP and more, the partner can also walk IT leaders through the process of estimating the amount of storage that will be needed and the technologies required for each archived system. 

3. Collaborate to Ensure Epic Data Archival Success

After choosing a partner with in-depth knowledge of healthcare and the systems to be archived, establishing a collaborative relationship is essential. Your goal is to ensure that the extracts include all necessary elements and are 100% accurate, regardless of configuration settings, usage procedures, use cases that may have changed over time, and how often the software was upgraded.

The hospital must deal directly with Epic to request the data in the required format, then it’s up to the vendor to use the proper infrastructure and technology to check it for completeness and accuracy. Avoid vendors that promise a fast “rehosting” solution, essentially another name for migrating an exact copy of the data. Each hospital has its own data needs, configurations, and retention policies and requires a custom solution that takes all those factors into consideration. 

Discover the MediQuant difference and the customized approach we take to archiving and migration of EHR data and beyond. Contact MediQuant at 844.286.8683 to request a free demo of our data extraction tool and process.