By Abhinav Shashank, CEO, Innovaccer.
Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing segments of the digital universe, with data volumes expected to grow by 48 percent annually. Healthcare applications will be the principal driver of this data growth, with EHR penetration in the US already reaching more than 80 percent and expected to reach 95 percent by 2020.
In addition, the healthcare space has matured to the point where EHR replacement has become commonplace, and up to 50 percent of health systems are projected to be on second-generation technology by the year 2020.
So why are these data points an important consideration?
Healthcare organizations have been facing the major challenge of storing and securing patient information. This is not just the problem with the providers, but for payers and patients too. While transitioning to complete digitization of practices, healthcare leaders, specifically CIOs, often find it a daunting task to identify the areas where they need to scale up their technological approach.
EHRs are likely the necessary evil for healthcare. No doubt they solved so many problems; however, they opened gates to other problems. The complications with the legacy systems compel hospitals to shift to modern technological solutions.
Right now, the story of mergers and acquisitions in the space is also like an adventure movie. According to KLAS Research, the number of EHR vendors dropped from more than 1,000 to around 400 now — the reason being the rise in mergers and acquisitions.
Where does the actual problem lie?
The journey of shifting from legacy systems to advanced technology is also ripe with its own set of complications. As the landscape is molded by M&As, consistent EHR replacements are not rare sights.
In this scenario, organizations face two major problems:
- Legacy systems have to be maintained so that organizations are able to access the read-only PHI.
- The cost of migrating data from one EHR to another is unreasonably high.
Moreover, since these EHR replacements are directly linked to the retention of the data from the legacy systems for about a decade. Most states require Protected Health Information (PHI) to be retained for about seven to 10 years.
How is data archival the solution we need now?
Transitioning between EHRs require a holistic approach to keep their data secure, and the best way here is data archival. Data archival is a simple process of archiving the entire data from legacy systems into a unified platform so that it can be kept secured for a long duration. It is the perfect solution to the above-stated two problems: it is easier and can be done at one-tenth of the price.
For instance, in the case of legacy systems, the EHR vendor can charge up to $10,000 a month for keeping the system running even after the transition. However, in the case of data archival, this entire process is fast, cheap and much more efficient. Also, it eliminates the necessity of keeping the legacy systems running.
The archiving process serves multiple functions and has the following major advantages over other data-retention processes:
- It allows legal decommissioning of the legacy systems
- It ensures the integrity of the vital healthcare data
- It creates the opportunity to realize opportunities for immediate Return on Investment (ROI)
- It minimizes the risk of maintaining the historical data
- It develops a centralized repository for all your legacy systems’ data
And many more …
What is the perfect data archival strategy?
The procedure of data archival mainly consists of two major steps: identifying the need for data archival and adopting the best archival solution. It is important to analyze the need first and then take action. It is a complex process and involves complex compliance requirements to be fulfilled.
So what is needed to be done now? Here is the list of essential prerequisites to be considered and followed religiously before archiving your crucial healthcare data:
Understand your healthcare data
The first step is to understand your EHR and legacy system data. One organization might be focusing on archiving the data from a single EHR while the other might be looking for a solution that can archive the data from multiple data sources. Everyone’s data needs are different and, thus, requires a different data archival approach.
Familiarize yourself with your state regulations
Every state has its own regulations to archive the data. The state of California might need you to archive your data for six years, while the state of Minnesota might have a span of more than 30 years. These regulations need to be considered and understood efficiently before investing in a data archival solution.
Chalk out your technological requirements
The next and most important step is to identify the extent and the varieties of technological features your organization might need. Every organization has different needs which should be analyzed and understood well in advance. Based on these insights, the final decision can be made about any data archival solution and its abilities.
The road ahead
The space of healthcare is among the most diverse and ever-changing fields. New mergers, efforts towards making the practice data-driven, empowering providers with access to every single bit of data about their patients, and whatnot; these factors have compelled organizations to keep shifting towards a better option — a better EHR. And in this story, the ultimate goal is to make this transition as smooth as possible. It is important to ensure that organizations get rid of all their legacy system headaches instantly. With data archival, it is finally possible.