Questions to Ask Vendors When Archiving Your Healthcare Data Storage
March 7, 2024 | Legacy Medical Records

Questions to Ask Vendors When Archiving Your Healthcare Data Storage

Archiving your healthcare data storage is something you can’t trust to just any vendor. In our latest blog, we provide queries to help assess your options.

When it comes to choosing a clinical data management vendor, making an informed decision is paramount. The most effective way to ensure that you find the right fit for your organization? Ask questions. Lots of questions. Failing to gather important information means your data archiving needs may not ultimately be met. Healthcare data storage is nuanced, and doing your homework ensures maximum return on investment (ROI) from any solution in which you invest.

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Here are 14 must-ask questions during meetings with potential data archiving partners: 

1. What is the total cost of ownership of the data archiving solution?

While data archiving can save you money, it’s critical to look at the long-term financial picture. This includes understanding the initial costs of data migration and ongoing costs related to future migrations, user training, and more.

Why this is important:

 The “sticker price” isn’t always meaningful in the context of the big picture. For example, do data usage patterns indicate you may need additional healthcare data storage in the future? If so, how might costs increase? How long do you need to store the data, and what are the short- and long-term costs associated with that timeframe? What about training new staff? Will this result in a significant loss of productivity? The goal is to promote positive financial results and reduce costs

2. Are there any hidden fees or additional costs of which the healthcare organization should be aware?

Be sure to investigate items that may be added after you initially sign with a vendor or vague line items buried in a contract. For example, do fees increase commensurate with the number of patient records archived or the size of the legacy system? 

Why this is important:

Hidden fees can easily escalate costs and detract from the overall anticipated ROI. This is the opposite of what should happen.

3. How easily does the data archiving solution integrate with existing systems?

Consider clinical data systems (e.g., the electronic health record) and non-clinical data systems (e.g., the enterprise resource planning system). Can users easily access information with as few clicks as possible?

Why this is important:

Data integration is an important aspect of ease of use and overall user satisfaction. It will alleviate provider and staff burden during ongoing healthcare staffing shortages and improve the speed of care and patient experience.

4. What kinds of data can the solution archive, and are there limitations?

For example, can the solution handle images as well as other file types? Can it integrate data from any legacy application or only certain ones?  

Why this is important:

Limitations could stand in the way of current and future strategic goals. They could also affect ROI. 

5. How does the data archiving solution ensure compliance with HIPAA?

Clinical data management vendors can employ their own full-time privacy and security officer and/or have a compliance officer to ensure all regulatory requirements are met. Inquire about any staff who may be safeguarding your data and consider the following questions: Does the solution integrate into your enterprise audit and compliance software? Does it provide healthcare organizations with print-ready reports that demonstrate compliance, including audit logs? If so, how does the solution track data at each stage of user access? 

Why this is important:

One of many reasons to implement a healthcare data storage solution is to reduce cybersecurity risks—not introduce new ones. Asking this question gives you a sense of whether and how the vendor prioritizes security compliance.

6. What security measures are in place to protect the data?

For example, what are the vendor’s encryption methods, and when is data encrypted? Is 256-bit encryption used? Does the solution permit role-based access with break-glass access protocols? What about specific healthcare data storage requirements? Is electronic protected health information and personally identifiable information stored within a Tier III (or higher) SOC 2-certified data center?

Why this is important:

Again, it’s about reassurance that the healthcare data storage vendor has taken all possible steps to protect your data.

7. Does the vendor carry sufficient cybersecurity insurance?

If so, what’s included? Every company needs to be prepared in the event of a data breach, and asking these questions can ascertain that your data archiving vendor can cover your organization and itself.

Why this is important:

This question demonstrates the vendor’s level of accountability and commitment to its customers’ best interests.

8. How easily can users access and retrieve data from the data archiving solution?

Do users have immediate access to historical records? Can they see a singular view of patients across archives?

Why this is important:

A poor user experience breeds frustration. If users can’t find what they need in a timely manner, this could also affect compliance with information blocking requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act.

9. Is the data archiving solution web-based? Or does it require an onsite server?

For example, can the solution handle images as well as other file types? Can it integrate data from any legacy application or only certain ones?  

Why this is important:

Web-based solutions provide secure access from anywhere, thus improving the user experience and efficiency while simultaneously reducing the risk of data breaches.

10. What type of support and training is provided during and after implementation?

How easy is it for users to learn the solution? Can they learn it in minutes, or will it take hours or even days?

Why this is important:

Time is money. Training should be clear and concise, and the solution should be highly intuitive so users can access information when, where, and how they need it.

11. How long does it typically take to fully implement the data archiving solution?

The answer to this usually depends on the specific approach the clinical data management vendor takes. Solutions using an extract, transform, and load (ETL) approach can be slower because they involve data conversion and validation. Non-ETL solutions rapidly archive large volumes of legacy data, making them much faster.

Why this is important:

Today’s healthcare organizations don’t have time to waste. Timely access to information is paramount.

12. How does the clinical data management vendor maintain data integrity during migration?

For example, what data validation standards does the vendor use to ensure data retention requirements are met? Does it use a combination of automated and manual validation processes?

Why this is important:

If a vendor can’t articulate this clearly, it could mean their validation standards are lackluster. This poses a direct threat to information that providers use to make critical decisions. Poor data validation can create many problems and challenges related to patient safety, care quality, and more.

13. Are there case studies that demonstrate the successful implementation of the data archiving solution?

Why this is important:

Case studies—and any specific returns on investment and metrics cited therein—can be helpful in terms of comparing options and customer experiences.

14. Can the healthcare organization request references?

Case studies may or may not be blinded. Either way, it’s a good idea to speak with individuals who have first-hand experience with the solution. Ideally, it would be individuals working in a similar-size organization and/or with the same or similar legacy systems. 

Why this is important:

You’ll learn things the vendor might not tell you (both good and bad). In addition, even if an organization goes on the record for a case study, it may still be worthwhile to contact them directly to get a sense of how their experience evolved over time since the case study was published.

A Solution to Accelerate Your Data Archiving

Taking the time to thoroughly vet clinical data management vendors helps healthcare organizations find the right solution that fits their needs. Learn more about Olah’s simple, fast, and complete solution to data archiving

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Written By: Olah Healthcare Technology