Medical practices often use a combination of various EHR, PM, and billing systems. As your practice grows, it is likely that you will transition to new technology, consolidate systems, and/or sunset legacy tools. Each technology adaptation comes with healthcare data migration requirements and important security, compliance, and operational considerations to responsibly convert, migrate, and/or archive your patient data.
A healthcare data migration plan that does not compromise data integrity, employee efficiency, or cross-functional collaboration keeps these three guiding pillars in mind:
- Protect data integrity
- Minimize disruption to clinician and administrative staff workflow
- Facilitate close collaboration between the practice staff, healthcare data conversion and migration specialists, and the new system vendor (when applicable)
Beyond these three primary guiding pillars, we suggest the following best practices to keep your practice compliant, secure, and operationally efficient through any system transition.
1: Plan ahead
In some ways, you can treat healthcare data migration like any other project. What do you do when starting anything new?
- Engage key stakeholders (For example, legacy application users and IT experts).
- Establish your goals. (What does success look like?)
- Assign specific responsibilities and expectations (Who will manage the project timeline? Who will train staff to minimize disruptions at Go-Live?)
After establishing these basics, you can build out the details of your migration plan to ensure it goes smoothly and avoids major issues. Use these questions to determine your course of action:
- What systems currently hold patient data (electronic and paper-based)?
- What data are you legally obligated to migrate or archive?
- Outside of legal requirements, what data will you migrate and where does it need to go?
- What information do you no longer need, and how will you safely archive it?
Once you answer those questions, you will have a sense of the scope of your migration project. At this point, you may decide to bring in a healthcare-specific data migration partner for extra support. They can help you finalize a plan and set a realistic timeline for accomplishing it.
One important note: As you go through the planning process, be sure to document, document, document. You will want a detailed record of all decisions made, people involved, and actions taken.
2: Ensure data quality and format
Before you execute any of your healthcare data migration plans, back up your data. If any unexpected issues arise during the process, you can rest easy knowing you have a copy of all your essential data.
Once your data is backed up, you can begin cleaning and organizing your data. You only want to transition data and information that is accurate and in a usable format. This means thoroughly parsing through it, classifying it, and correcting it to align with your future business goals and data use cases. The success of this phase is critical to the success of your entire data migration, and hinges on three key steps:
- Scrub: Thoroughly scrub through source data to identify errors, duplicates, and unnecessary data. Address these issues before moving forward.
- Profile and normalize: If you are working with a data migration partner, this part will be much more streamlined. Data migration vendors have proven data profiling and data normalization tools and processes that can help organize and transform your data prior to migration.
- Convert: Based on the data quality standards and formatting requirements you (and/or your new vendor) have set, you will convert your data from its current state to a more appropriate, useful format.
Again, it is imperative to consider your business goals, data use cases, and new systems carefully when going through the clean-up and conversion phase of migration. The more closely you align with these elements, the more effectively you will be able to work with your data after migration is complete.
3: Prioritize security, privacy, and compliance
No list of best practices for data usage would be complete without an ode to security. Regardless of what the healthcare data is and where it is going, it must be kept secure throughout the extraction, conversion, and migration processes. Here are a handful of tips and resources to help ensure security, privacy, and compliance:
- Lock down access to a small group of critical users with physical and digital safeguards.
- Keep detailed documentation of who is touching the data and why. Use these security tips for more guidance.
- Use the highest encryption standards to transport your data.
- Confirm a plan for the archival and destruction of any copies of data that have been made.
- Faithfully reproduce your data so that your workflow remains seamless one you’ve moved to a new system.
- Closely follow HIPAA guidelines as you set up your new system to remain legally compliant. (Consult our EHR compliance checklist for a detailed breakdown of requirements.)
This is another place where an external healthcare data migration partner can be beneficial. They will have a keen eye for any threats or issues and make objectively sound recommendations for solving identified problems.
4: Test, and test again
Before launching your new system into a live environment, you should conduct a series of pressure tests. Make sure you have satisfactory answers to each of the following questions:
- Is the data converted accurately?
- Was everything brought over successfully, or are we missing records?
- Are there any errors remaining in the data that need to be fixed?
- Are we able to use the data and information easily when completing daily tasks?
- Is the new system functioning correctly?
- Are our security measures working properly?
- Are there any realistic steps we could take to make the system operate more effectively for our users?
Testing allows you to identify and iron out any remaining issues. Launching a well-tested system will help build trust and gain buy-in from your user base. The fewer issues found after go-live, the more seamless your transition will be.
5: Leave time for training
Setting a comprehensive training schedule is another sure way to establish trust among users and create a seamless transition for patients and staff alike. An external healthcare data migration partner can offer significant support here by providing best practices for training modules and troubleshooting user challenges. Allowing time for education and questions leads to less system downtime during go-live, minimizes disruption to the patient flow, and improves overall adoption and ROI.
Migrating healthcare data is a complex process that requires a high level of planning, security measures, and attention to detail. As we see throughout this post, there are many steps along the way where an external data migration partner can make the process easier and safer for your practice. Healthcare data migration experts can help you orchestrate a successful transition plan, execute data backup and clean up, ensure compliance and protection along the way, and support testing and training. With decades of healthcare technology experience and hundreds of successful data migrations under our belt, PSM can help you move your medical data securely and seamlessly in unparalleled turnaround times. We’re excited to show you how—reach out today!