In the complex world of healthcare, a wide array of business challenges constantly create opportunities for smart solutions. For organizations wishing to promote financial sustainability, managing disparate electronic medical records (EMR) is one such challenge.
Providers want—and need—to share healthcare data to promote continuity of care for their patients. However, many do not use the same EMR, and the interoperability between disparate systems continues to fall short. While larger organizations may have the budget and other resources necessary to purchase and deploy an integrated Epic EMR system, smaller hospitals and physician practices often don’t. These financial and operational disparities are a barrier to achieving interoperability and moving the needle on value-based care.
Therein lies the opportunity to leverage Epic’s Community Connect platform.
The benefits of the Epic Community Connect program
With Epic Community Connect, health systems and hospitals can license their Epic EMR and extend its functionality to independent physician practices and other health facilities at an affordable cost. Community Connect implementations improve interoperability and help ensure patients have a seamless care experience.
- Coordinate care and promote continuity of care across diverse geographic markets by leveraging an Epic EMR
- Leverage years’ worth of Epic best practices and experiences via the Epic Community Connect host
- Utilize Epic’s robust reporting and metric capabilities to not only improve patient care, but enhance staff productivity and efficiency
- Retain patients within the network through bidirectional referrals that occur when providers use the same EMR
- Actively and accurately review financial information across facilities
Organizations participating in an Epic EMR conversion through Epic Community Connect also receive the help of dedicated experts in implementation, training, and application support once the system is deployed.
Legacy considerations when converting to Epic
However, with Epic’s Community Connect and similar programs, there are several considerations for both the organization hosting the Epic EMR (often referred to as the “Epic Hub” site) and the organization using it (often referred to as a “Spoke”), one of the most important being: what to do with the old legacy system data.
For example, licensing organizations must decide whether they will retain their data in a read-only mode on a legacy system indefinitely, convert some (almost never all) of it into the Epic EMR, or archive it into an easily accessible platform. These considerations are equally important for hosting organizations looking to roll out the Epic Community Connect program across multiple hospitals and clinics. To best support Spoke organizations, Hubs need timely access to legacy data and require an archive partner that provides a consistent, efficient, and predictable experience.
Consider the following questions when deciding what to do with old legacy system data.
- Do we want to reduce our long-term costs and mitigate risk? While there are no true benefits to maintaining a legacy system after joining a larger system’s Epic EMR, there are risks—starting with increased costs over time and data breaches that can occur when systems aren’t built using the latest security tools and techniques. In some cases, it may be impossible to incorporate up-to-date encryption, as legacy systems may not even be eligible for critical infrastructure upgrades.
In addition to data security problems, loss of access to EMR data is also a risk with legacy systems. Physical hardware in legacy systems can fail, and individuals with knowledge of how to retrieve the data may have retired long ago. Moreover, these outdated servers and databases do not promote interoperability, leading to users having to remember various workflows and credentials outside of their Epic EMR.
- Do we want easy access to the comprehensive medical record or only mission-critical data? A non-ETL (extract, transform, load) approach to data archiving ensures accurate conversion of all legacy system data without intensive testing and validation.
- Do we want the ability to augment or create reports?
A non-ETL approach stores information in a data lake and replicates the entire legacy system database into the cloud, making it easier to mirror reports.
Data archiving best practices
The case for a non-ETL approach to data archiving when converting to an Epic EMR is clear. The following are several ways physician practice administrators, hospital CIOs, and health information leaders can maximize the strategy:
- Identify an executive sponsor. This person can spearhead the effort and provide ongoing support.
- Involve health information management (HIM) early in the process. A data archiving solution should be part of the conversation well before selecting an EMR or enterprise content management (ECM) system and ideally during demo and planning discussions.
- Assign a provider champion. This person is a clinical user who can ensure the archived data is useful and meaningful, or whether views and filters could benefit from improvement. Usually, you’ll need this individual’s assistance when providers need to view information directly from within their EHR of choice.
- Leverage a project team. Be sure to include the executive sponsor and physician champion as well as a project manager, application administrators, network administrators, and HIM. HIM can weigh in on whether views of the Epic data meet release-of-information-related requirements and obligations.
- Involve your IT team. Identify the appropriate technical staff necessary to obtain access to the often inaccessible and disparate systems.
- Consider the number of archives required. Multi-facility organizations need to ascertain how many archive instances will be used. Will all archives be placed in one shared database instance, or will each facility have its own? This decision will be informed by factors from the individual provider level (which users need to see the data) to the facility level (which facility should own the data) to the organizational level (what are the costs and maintenance involved with managing separate instances).
- Identify system contracts. Begin discovery efforts for all contracts and maintenance agreements as soon as possible to expedite scoping and internal business case preparation.
- Leverage economies of scale. It’s often less expensive and less risky to archive as many legacy systems as possible at the same time. Organizations also realize a faster return on investment when taking this approach. Tackling only one or two applications a year only adds to the cost and complexity.
There are many benefits to an Epic Community Connect model; however, questions about legacy data and systems must be at the forefront of these projects to ensure a smooth transition and accurate total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis. Hosting organizations can provide valuable insights and steer smaller hospitals and physician practices toward cost-effective and efficient Epic data archiving solutions.
To learn more
Want more information? Learn about how Olah helps remove the problems associated with archiving: https://olahht.com/archiving-plan/. All you need to do is fill out an intake form with applications you use and need to archive. Then we’ll let you know how long it will take to archive your legacy applications into the cloud using Olah’s unique lift-and-shift methodology. Finally, we’ll present your custom archiving plan so you can get back to doing what you do best: Providing first-class patient care.