legacy data archiving
January 18, 2024 | Legacy Medical Records

Hospital Legacy Data Archiving Considerations: ETL Platform or EAS?

Proper data archiving is critical for any secure migration from legacy systems. Find out the differences between an ETL platform and more novel solutions.

While it may be tempting to maintain legacy systems out of convenience, doing so not only increases a healthcare organization’s costs, it also increases compliance risk, making providers vulnerable to data loss and exposure.  

This exposure can be expensive. According to some estimates, the average cost of a breach in the healthcare industry is nearly $6.5 million. That’s in addition to the expenses associated with maintaining these systems potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to one recent study 

Once organizations realize that data archiving is necessary, the next step is to decide what type of archiving solution is best a traditional extract, transfer, load (ETL) platform or a new, more modern approach like Olah’s EAS™ (Enterprise Archiving Solution).   

In this blog, we’ll discuss the differences between ETL healthcare platforms and the EAS archiving solution, as well as provide questions to consider so providers can make informed business decisions that ultimately yield actionable results.

Download the White Paper: Common Myths About Archiving Legacy Healthcare  Systems

What Is Traditional ETL vs. EAS? 

ETL is a manual-intensive method of transferring limited data from a source system to a destination system. An ETL healthcare platform extracts relevant data from one or more source databases, transforms it for ease of analysis, and loads it into a single target proprietary data repository. One drawback: not all data will be transferred. At a virtual CHIME session last year, a CIO of a large health system likened this to “The Great Filter,” because you have to filter out content when you do a conversion or archive with ETL. 

EAS ultimately yields the same (or better) results, but it circumvents the time- and labor-intensive ETL healthcare data transfer process. This means organizations end up with an accurate and complete conversion of all legacy data without rigorous testing and validation. That’s because an EAS archiving solution leverages innovative technology to rebuild critical archived reports, then load and index those reports into a secure data lake.  

This data lake is stored on a cloud-native platform to which clinicians and administrators have easy access. This includes access to original and complete databases, giving individuals countless opportunities to leverage years of valuable information and optimize insights for benchmarking, operational planning, and more. With an EAS archiving solution, organizations can transfer entire legacy databases and documents to a secure and controlled archive that’s seamlessly integrated with any electronic health record (EHR).   

Benefits & Challenges of an ETL Platform vs. an EAS Archiving Solution 

Let’s review the benefits and challenges of each option, starting with ETL products. The benefit of an ETL platform is that it accomplishes the overarching goal of moving away from legacy systems toward data archiving. ETL may also be necessary for handling newer legacy data.  

However, the challenges associated with adopting an ETL healthcare platform are numerous: It’s expensive, time-consuming, and resource intensive. That’s because ETL technology usually requires complex data mapping during which organizations must identify the information they want to move, pull it out of the old system and into the new one, and then validate it a process that can take months or years, depending on the depth and breadth of the data itself.  

In addition, successfully implementing an ETL platform typically requires training and time, because ETL puts data into its own schema and views, and users must learn to interpret what they’re looking at.  

Download the White Paper: Common Myths About Archiving Legacy Healthcare  Systems

With an ETL platform, organizations also lose structured data due to human error, hardware failure, or software bugs. And this can lead to severe consequences – such as what happened with one Olah customer, which came onboard after losing a key piece of information due to a previous vendor’s use of ETL. Without being able to present that information for legal reasons, the company was fined.  

Another challenge facing organizations that use ETL? Lack of integration between the EHR and ETL platform leads to end-user frustration and dissatisfaction when it comes time to implement. 

Now let’s consider EAS technology.   

There are many benefits associated with an EAS archiving solution. Most importantly, during the EAS data archiving process, care teams can continue to focus their time and attention on what matters most — providing high-quality patient care — instead of on working through data migration steps.  

An EAS archiving solution provides fast, efficient, reliable, and cost-effective access to all legacy data not just text and numeric data. That’s because a data lake captures all types of data, including PDFs, image files, sounds files, and more. With EAS (or a similar approach), the data lake includes an exact replica of the entire legacy system database, making it easier to replicate reports and providing a seamless end-user experience by incorporating bit-to-bit accuracy and fast validation. 

Another benefit? No legacy data is lost, and there’s minimal disruption to staff before, during, and after the data conversion. In addition, organizations leveraging an EAS archiving solution retain all files, can easily scale their data archiving efforts, and don’t require a significant investment in training because the data they need is easy to access and in a familiar format. Overall, EAS offers a more seamless experience with minimal friction. 

Choosing ETL or EAS: Questions to Consider 

Still not sure whether an ETL healthcare platform or EAS archiving solution is the better option? Here are some questions to consider: 

  1. What legacy systems require data archiving? Consider prioritizing data archiving efforts based on legacy systems that urgently need archiving, upcoming fees for software or maintenance, and systems that present the biggest cybersecurity risks. 
  2. What are each legacy system’s specifications? Be as detailed as possible. Document the system name, database type and size, number of patients or episodes in the system, release-of-information reporting needs, and clinical reporting requirements.  
  3. How will the organization use the legacy data? If the legacy data is used for active patient care or billing efforts, then organizations may need to still use an ETL platform to map and import it into the new system. However, when maintaining the legacy data for auditing purposes, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or record retention requirements, EAS is the better option. 

With EAS, healthcare organizations experience the following benefits: 

  • Direct access to legacy data from within the EHR 
  • Direct SQL query builder 
  • Full audit tracking 
  • Full medical record access with two clicks 
  • Multi-system patient search 
  • Role-based access controls 
  • Secured private AWS Cloud 
  • Single sign-on with OAuth 2.0 

Ultimately, an EAS archiving solution helps organizations accomplish these three critical goals: 

  1. Alleviate risk. Organizations move sensitive data from vulnerable, aging systems and networks to a single and secure cloud-native platform. 
  2. Reduce costs. Organizations scaling their data archiving efforts could achieve significant cost containment as well as a break-even return on investment within 12 to 24 months. 
  3. Improve legacy data accessibility. After archiving with EAS, clinicians, administrators, and IT teams have easy access to all legacy data directly through the EHR or a secure web portal. 

Explore How EAS Can Support Your Healthcare Organization

Deciding to embark on a data archiving journey is a big step. However, an even bigger one is the “how.” While healthcare organizations technically have two options, EAS stands out as a viable choice.

Learn how Olah can help with its simple, fast, and complete solution for any EMR archive project.

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Olah Healthcare Technology

Written By: Olah Healthcare Technology