How to Handle Legacy Data When Switching EHR
Working in medicine means handling data. A lot of data.
You might wonder how your practice should handle all the information it generates, especially if you’re working on healthcare data migration. This could happen if you’re transitioning from paper records to electronic ones or switching between electronic health record (EHR) systems.
Handling data might be easier if you consider a few things.
Keep in touch (or reconnect) with coworkers and former coworkers
So, you’ve stored data that you might want to use one day. Will you be able to access it when the time comes?
The people who’ve used the data before and have used prior systems might not work at your medical office any longer. Or, if they do, there’s a good chance they’re working on a newer electronic health system that the rest of your office is using.
So, if you need data or assistance, ask these employees and former employees what they know. If they no longer work at your office, consider staying in touch or reconnecting with employees who interacted a great deal with your data and computer systems. Their knowledge could save you time and be quite useful.
Have you fallen out of touch with these employees? Are you worried about how to approach them without feeling awkward? You could go online for tips about re-establishing contact with your former coworkers and supervisors.
Accessing data is more than rekindling relationships with former colleagues. It’s also helping current and new coworkers.
Training yourself and coworkers could help you access current and archived data. Check to see if the manufacturers of your office’s electronic health record (EHR) and practice management software systems could send representatives to your office to provide training or offer ongoing assistance and troubleshooting services.
Such assistance could probably help everyone, even people with more EHR system experience and higher comfort levels with your new system.
Chances are, if one person has a particular question, other people might have that same query. Answering the same question in a group prevents many people from repeatedly bringing up the same concerns. Instead, they’ll find faster resolution to their problems and resume working more quickly.
Save and copy important information
It might sound obvious but save and copy legacy data and other important data when you’re switching from one system to another and conducting your EHR data migration.
Many types of software systems allow you to migrate data from one to another seamlessly using electronic tools. But if they don’t, you might need to save, collect, and copy this kind of data manually.
Some data you’d want to convert from one system to another might include information about patients’:
- Medical and personal histories
- Appointment and procedure schedules
- Standing or active orders
Even if your electronic systems allow you to migrate this type of information electronically, consider saving it outside of the systems. At least, consider storing this kind of information and other vital data temporarily while you’re transferring information between systems.
Similarly, if you’re transferring information from paper charts into electronic ones, don’t shred and dispose of your paper documentation right away. Keep the files until you’re sure your new electronic system has such information stored and you and your employees are able to access and use it.
Or, you might want to keep certain records indefinitely. It’s your call.
But losing such information may be more than an inconvenience. Not knowing about your patients’ medications and allergies could be a matter of life and death.
Set parameters for storage
Deciding how to handle your practice’s paper and electronic files and other data means setting guidelines.
When keeping paper files or electronically archived information, you’ll probably want to determine
- How long you want to keep the data.
- Storage solutions for keeping your data: in the office? Off-site?
- Whether you want to enter patients you haven’t seen for a few years into your system.
- Which employees have access to archived and/or new data.
Remembering who visits your office and how often could help you determine how you want to classify current records, which information is older but should still be accessible, which information should be archived, and whether to discard other types of data.
Other tips for handling data during your EHR migration
For information you want to keep because you might need to access it, you might want to create an archival system.
Some benefits of creating an archival system include helping your practice find documentation when it needs it, creating a centralized location for archived data, and saving money that you might otherwise use to manage legacy data.
If you want to develop an archival system, consider taking a few steps:
Remove (extract) data from your existing system
To determine where your data is stored and how to remove it, you might want to talk with professionals who specialize in saving and extracting it.
They could help you work with data that is cloud-based or stored elsewhere, such as EKGs and other medical devices. If your data is encrypted or encoded and uses special tools to decipher, the professionals could help you with those matters and others.
Transform your data into different forms
Another part of creating archival records is determining how you want to save this data. Do you want to save the information as data? Develop images of each of your records?
Consider doing both. Discrete data allows you to create customized reports, while fixed images could help you comply with regulations because you can’t change the data further.
Decide how you want to store your data
Once you’ve determined where your information is and how you want to transform it, you’ll want to decide how you want to store it.
You might want to keep your current system to store data, develop a stand-alone application that may or may allow easy access, or store your data in the cloud (on the internet) and have others manage your information.
In fact, if you have questions about your EHRs and how to store and use information, you might want to contact Eye Care Leaders. Working together, we’ll develop solutions that could help your health care practice manage its data and handle other aspects of its work.
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