Seven Signs Your Medical Records Storage Needs Archiving
September 14, 2023 | Legacy Medical Records

Seven Signs Your Medical Records Storage Needs Archiving

Archiving medical records is critical to ensuring patient information is secure and complete, but it’s often deprioritized. Here’s how you know it’s time.

The challenges associated with holding on to legacy systems are numerous. They increase cost, complicate audits and release-of-information workflows, and frustrate users who need timely access to healthcare data so they can take care of patients. They can also be a major roadblock to data security in healthcare. Yet 69% of healthcare organizations still maintain at least two of these systems 

Why?

Fear. Change can be scary – and a large transformation like data archiving is intimidating for any organization, particularly those facing a growing pile of legacy systems that add financial burden and compliance risk. The good news? Olah’s approachand its ability to archive an organization’s entire pile of systems (e.g., EMRs, ERPs, and lab systems)is highly efficient because it validates extracted documents against patient information and extracts additional metadata to help identify patients quickly. Its non-traditional, lift and shift strategy is also scalable and merges all archived systems into a simple, easy-to-search viewer that integrates with leading electronic health records. That’s why now is the time to consider archiving your medical records storage. Providing easy access to healthcare data doesn’t need to be costly, complex, or disruptive.  

Here are seven signs archiving should be one of your top priorities.

1. Providers and others continually voice frustration about a lack of access to healthcare data.

Hospitals that haven’t undertaken an archiving effort often rely on several systems to maintain healthcare data outside of their electronic health record (EHR). In the wake of an EHR conversion, this could include two to five years’ worth of patient data. This puts the onus on users to remember where that data is stored and how to access it—contributing to provider burnout and medical errors. Imagine a scenario where a patient presents for surgery, and the surgeon can’t access information about a side effect from a drug used in a previous surgery. Why? It’s because that information is stored in one or more legacy systems. To get what they need, healthcare providers must log into multiple browsers and systems. Even then, there’s no guarantee they’ll find the answers. Archiving provides those providers and others with timely access to healthcare data so they can make informed decisions and provide high-quality patient care. 

2. The Office of the National Coordinator has fined your hospital for information blocking.

The 21st Century Cures Act mandates immediate access to, and portability of, personal electronic health information for patients, providers, and payers. However, if your healthcare organization hasn’t archived its medical records storage, well-intentioned Health Information Management (HIM) staff may not have easy access to healthcare data or they may not even know where that data exists. Data omissions can easily lead to costly fines and public relations nightmares. Archiving medical records storage provides simple, consolidated access to all legacy medical records, streamlining the work of HIM staff.

3. You’ve had a data breach.

For three years in a row, healthcare has been the industry with the highest number of data breaches, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2022 Annual Data Breach Report. In 2022, 344 healthcare data breaches affected more than 26 million people, the ITRC found. The data compromised most frequently? Medical history, medical condition, treatment, and diagnosis information. Medical insurance account numbers and medical provider accounts were also high on the list.  

These breaches come at a cost: $429 per stolen or lost record. This is three times more per record than for all other (non-healthcare) sectors. For the ninth year in a row, the healthcare industry also had the highest cost of a breach – $6.5 million on average, which is 60% more than all other sectors.  

 Legacy systems pose a significant cybersecurity threat because they’re not built using the latest security tools and techniques. Many may not even function on the latest versions of operating systems. These systems may expose hospitals to enterprise-wide consequences, including damaged reputation, violation of regulatory requirements, patient mistrust, lost loyalty, lawsuits, litigations, financial penalties, and increased insurance and legal costs. Archiving your medical records storage enables you to maintain optimal data security in healthcare, ensure HIPAA compliance, and reduce your organization’s overall risk profile. 

4. Your old server is beginning to fail.

Modernization isn’t easy, especially when you’re not prepared for it. If you have outdated tools and processes, too many competing priorities, or lack of executive buy-in, the moment when you realize your server needs replacing can cause a scramble. Before you get to crisis mode, save yourself by planning an archiving project. This proactive approach saves you headaches and also safeguards you against trouble in the future, such as data loss. By not archiving your data, you risk having an incomplete and/or inaccurate view into patient histories, leaving you open to poor care delivery and even malpractice litigation.

5. Users and administrators of the legacy system are nearing the end of their careers.

If you don’t have the right technical expertise to manage legacy systems and help people view and use legacy data, the systems become black holes. What good is the information in a legacy system if it’s inaccessible? Archiving medical records storage makes information immediately accessible to everyone. You aren’t reliant on a specific person.

6. You’re looking for ways to cut costs.

Healthcare organizations often pay a recurring licensing fee to retain access to healthcare data. In addition, there are unexpected costs such as time spent updating the legacy systems and productivity loss associated with slower hardware. Archiving enables access to healthcare data at a fraction of the cost and provides a cost-effective path to eliminating expensive software licensing fees. In fact, 85% of organizations that have archived and retired legacy systems report positive financial results. This is money that organizations can reinvest into patient care, staff retention, and much more. 

7. Your hospital or clinical practice is joining a health system.

Although hospital and health system mergers and acquisitions slowed with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 17 transactions in the fourth quarter of 2022 marked a post-pandemic high, and transactions in the first quarter of 2023 were not far behind, at 15. If your hospital or clinic is being acquired, it’s likely you’ll be required to migrate to a different EHR, so archiving should be catapulted to the top of your priority list. You’ll need a top-tier solution to ensure timely access to healthcare data in the old system.

Taking next steps

Once you understand the inherent dangers of maintaining outdated systems, the next step is to act: 

  • Identify systems in your portfolio that are most vulnerable. Be sure to include electronic medical records; EHRs; clinical, lab, and pharmacy applications; financial applications; enterprise resource planning systems; and anything else in your collection. 
  • Compile a comprehensive list of applications to archive. Only archiving one or two applications per year can increase your costs and the complexity of your plans. To achieve greater success, aim to archive as many applications as possible, as quickly as possible. 
  • Investigate the latest offerings available on the market. Look for a partner that makes the process easier for your staff and your wallet. 
  • Identify contracts for scoping and business case efforts. Discovery of these documents can take time, since systems are sometimes 10+ years old. Looking for them early on can expedite discussions later. 
  • Outline a plan to begin reducing your register of legacy systems. Be sure to include health information management (HIM) staff in planning decisions, as they are (arguably) the largest consumer of archived data and typically have knowledge of applications and workflows unknown to others.  

To learn more

Want more information? Learn about Olah’s simple, fast, and complete solution to archiving. All you need to do is share some basic information on the systems you need to archive. Then we’ll provide a timeline to archive your legacy applications into the cloud using Olah’s lift-and-shift methodology. Finally, we’ll present your custom archiving plan so you can get back to providing first-class patient care. 

Whitepaper: Common Myths About Archiving Legacy Healthcare Systems

Olah Healthcare Technology

Written By: Olah Healthcare Technology