Medical legacy systems can be found in most large healthcare organizations. Whether they are old billing systems or a laboratory information system connected to a vital piece of equipment, it’s normal to see outdated equipment and applications in a modern hospital facility.
A research report revealed that 70% of medical devices are connected to legacy versions of Windows that have ceased to be supported by Microsoft since January 2020. In most cases, the engineers and developers who designed these systems have left the organization.
Such legacy systems pose a security risk and must be managed with care since they may contain vital healthcare information. Generally, medical legacy systems are difficult to manage, and they hinder the effective digitization and interoperability of healthcare.
Below we’ll discuss the steps your organization can take to overcome the challenges posed by legacy systems.
1. Understand Medical Legacy System Risks
Many legacy applications were built when there were few data breaches and minimal network connectivity. The designers never knew their applications would live on in an era of ubiquitous connectivity.
Legacy systems lack modern security protection, and this makes them a nightmare to maintain. The operating systems are outdated, programming languages such as COBOL used to design them are now obsolete. It is also difficult to find personnel with the skill set to support them.
For these and many other reasons, it isn’t easy to apply modern security or privacy controls like encryption needed to satisfy HIPAA security regulations.
2. Identify What Needs to Be Changed
Assess the state of your legacy or outdated systems to determine why your software no longer meets your present needs and what will be suitable for future requirements. Try to answer the following questions:
- What is the inventory of these legacy tools?
- What functions do these legacy systems perform?
- Can this system be eliminated, or is it performing a crucial business function?
- Does the system process or store sensitive information?
- Is the system’s architecture adequately documented?
It is vital to put together a list of major business systems and the many applications that have been acquired through mergers.
After the inventory, you need to develop a detailed list of conversion projects. Plan to redesign or upgrade your legacy systems to use modern technology that is cloud-based, well-secured, and supports mobile access.
3. Choose Between Archiving and Data Migration
It is imperative for providers to decommission legacy systems, whether they acquired or developed them from scratch. The challenge at this point is where to archive the data for occasional access or to migrate it to an existing enterprise system.
The final choice depends on the type of data and how often users in the organization must access it. If recent patient data is part of the legacy system, it needs to be migrated to satisfy regulatory requirements.
On the other hand, if the data is decades old and has little business value, the organization may choose to archive it to offline storage. While archiving is faster than migration, it increases the time required to access the records.
To meet regulatory requirements for security, privacy, and interoperability, Health IT leaders and CIOs must have a thorough understanding of the legacy systems in their organization and create strategies to mitigate the risks associated with them.
Let’s Help You Retire Your Medical Legacy Systems
MediQuant is a data archiving and migration specialist with many successful projects completed for major healthcare organizations. Contact us now at 844.286.8683 to book a free consultation, and let’s discuss your healthcare data migration needs.