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March 12, 2024 | Legacy Medical Records

Key Differences Among Healthcare Data Archiving Solutions

From costs and speed to compliance and security, there are notable differences in the data archiving solutions available to healthcare companies.

Here’s the good news: When it comes to data archiving solutions, you’ve got options.
The bad news: You’ve got options.  

It’s nice to have choices when deciding on your ideal partner, but that also means you’ll need to thoroughly research each solution to find the best fit. On the surface, all may look equally viable in terms of archiving records effectively. However, every healthcare organization embarking on the journey of application retirement for the first time has different needs and priorities. The same is true for organizations that need to replace their current data archiving solution or vendor. The top three reasons for making the switch, according to a recent KLAS report, are missing data, missed timelines, and lack of integration with the electronic medical record (EMR). 

All of this means you have your homework cut out for you, including understanding what common myths about archiving records are untrue, to ensure you make the best purchase decision possible. The wrong choice can be costly in terms of lost productivity, compliance risk, patient safety, and more.  

Data Archiving Options: Understanding the Differences  

Generally speaking, healthcare data archiving solutions differ significantly when it comes to the following categories: 

  • Methodology for archiving records 
  • Speed and efficiency 
  • Cost structure 
  • Compliance and security 
  • Customization 
  • Integration capabilities 
  • User experience 

In OIah’s experience, most healthcare organizations consider “compliance and security” to be the most important distinguishing factor, with speed and efficiency a close second. The same KLAS report found that price, sales experience, and functionality drive purchasing decisions for all providers, whether they’re replacing a data archiving solution or choosing one for the first time. You already know the top priorities at your own facility. Thoroughly vetting each structured data archiving option is paramount because it prevents you from wasting time, money, and resources on a solution that doesn’t ultimately deliver the return on investment you seek.  

With that said, healthcare organizations focusing on application retirement typically want to make the process as expeditious as possible. They need to move legacy data quickly and efficiently to contain costs, mitigate risk, and promote business continuity. That’s why proactive planning is so critical.  

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

Questions to Consider When Weighing Application Retirement Solutions 

Preparing questions in advance helps you make the most of your conversations with vendors and understand the intricacies of the differences between data archiving solutions designed specifically for healthcare settings. We’ve done some of that work for you. Use the list of 12 questions below as a starting point and add additional queries you feel are relevant to your organization’s unique needs and priorities.  

1. What methodology do you use for archiving records? 

While some data archiving solutions use extract, transform, and load (ETL) to migrate a portion of legacy data into new systems, others use a quick and simple "lift and shift" methodology to maintain all data from legacy systems. This is an important distinction you’ll want to clarify. 

2. How do you store archived records? 

Some offerings from vendors store archived records in silos. Users must click into multiple silos to access records for a single patient. Others store archived records in one patient-centric location that includes all archived data for each individual patient. This means multiple clicks aren’t necessary, making the user experience much more positive. Again, an important question to ask. 

3. What is the speed and efficiency of the data archiving solution? 

ETL solutions can be slower because they involve data conversion and validation. Non-ETL solutions rapidly archive large volumes of legacy data, making them much faster. This is an important consideration in terms of user productivity and patient safety. 

4. What is your cost structure for archiving records? 

It’s best to start exploring financial considerations upfront. Some vendors may have hidden costs associated with the number of patient records archived or the size of the legacy system. Others offer a more straightforward pricing model so you know how much the entire application retirement project will cost. 

5. How do you ensure compliance and security? 

Some vendors stay abreast of new and emerging regulatory requirements while others lag behind. A preferred vendor, for example, is likely aware of the potential for a machine-readable-code requirement for PHI (personal health information) holding systems, which would increase interoperability by ensuring that data's produced in a more easily-read format. Also ask the vendor to articulate specifically what it does to promote HIPAA compliance and cybersecurity, or you may be placing patient privacy and data security at serious risk.  

6. How well does the data archiving solution integrate with existing systems? 

Some data archiving solutions integrate seamlessly with existing systems, while others may require additional effort for which your organization may not have available time and resources. For example, at a minimum, you’ll probably want the legacy data deeply integrated with your upcoming EMR and admission, discharge, transfer feed so users can see that data as easily as possible. Be sure to inquire whether the vendor supports the FHIR communication standard, a next-generation interoperability standard designed to enable the efficient exchange of clinical and administrative health data. 

7. Can we customize the solution? 

Some data archiving solutions may offer more options for customization or be nimbler than others when it comes to implementing enhancements. If this is important to your organization, be sure to ask for examples. 

8. How easy will it be to access, use, and even purge archived data now and in the future? 

Focus on data representation and manipulation capabilities your users need. For example, do they need to search and filter data based on multiple criteria? Do they commonly ask for the ability to save filters for repeated use? Does the system automatically identify data records to purge based on a variety of factors? Can you implement exceptions? Is there a detailed audit log of all activities?  

9. What level of support do you provide?  

Services are equally as important as software to the success of your data archiving project. Be sure to inquire about ongoing support for data retrieval, staff education, data lifecycle management, performance monitoring and optimization, disaster recovery planning, and scalability. Also inquire about updates such as system upgrades and potential data security improvements. 

10. How do you ensure data integrity? 

How likely is it that legacy data will be corrupted or lost during the application retirement process? This is an important consideration from a legal perspective, as organizations could be held liable if important legacy patient data is missing.  

11. What user training do you provide? 

Ideally, the healthcare data archiving solution requires minimal user training. If training is necessary, how does the vendor provide ongoing assistance so everyone can leverage the system effectively and efficiently?  

12. What future costs can we anticipate? 

With some healthcare data archiving vendors, the introductory price you receive isn’t the one you have in the long term. Ensure prospective vendors document their current and future rates in writing. 

Choosing the Right Vendor for Archiving Records 

Narrowing the options for healthcare data archiving solutions may seem daunting, but it becomes more manageable when you ask pointed questions about what the vendor does—and does not—do. Throughout this process, the answers will become crystal-clear and you’ll know exactly what you need.  

See Olah’s simple, fast, and complete solution to archiving in action today.  

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Olah Healthcare Technology

Written By: Olah Healthcare Technology