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Why Legacy EHR Data Is Vital to Patient Safety

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Krista Keenan, RN
October 25, 2021

Since the concept was first conceived, the goal of the electronic health record (EHR) has been to provide easy access to a more holistic view of a patient’s medical history. Comprehensive medical data is critical for improving care management and reducing medical errors. Even a small gap in EHR data can result in inappropriate or unnecessary treatment and care management.

Since 2008, when the HITECH Act offered financial incentives for electronic health record (EHR) adoption, most healthcare organizations have made the switch from paper to electronic medical records (EMRs). Prior to 2008, only 10% of hospitals had adopted a basic EHR system. By 2017 the number of hospitals with a certified EHR increased to 96%, and 86% of office-based physicians had adopted an EHR of some kind.

Today, few hospital systems need to convert paper records to EHRs (although there are a few private practice physicians that still use paper records). Instead, EMR conversions are taking place when hospitals are acquired by larger health systems, physician practices are acquired, healthcare organizations merge, or when a hospital/health system converts from an old EMR to a new EHR. In these cases, legacy EHR data must accurately and reliably be moved to a newer, more robust enterprise-wide EHR.

The question many organizations have is what data is essential to migrate to the new system. Can they save time and money by deleting old data?

No Medical Data Is Obsolete

The short answer is that all medical data is vital. Legacy systems contain valuable patient data that the clinical staff relies on every day to understand the patients’ history. The decision to not move historical records quickly may drive a wedge between the clinical staff, administration, information services, and the new EHR vendor.

If an organization decides to implement the EHR with no legacy data prepopulated, it is typically left to the clinical staff to enter that data after the conversion. Trying to access or recreate histories in this way is time-consuming and often inaccurate. The clinical staff may need to sign in and search multiple systems to find historical or newly captured data at the point of admission. This is not only disruptive to the clinical workflow, it may also reduce the number of patients clinicians can see in a day, diminish their trust in the EHR system and ultimately harm its adoption.

When an organization fails to migrate all old data during an EMR conversion, it puts a considerable burden on patients to remember all their prescribed medications, active problems, medical/surgical history, and any other issues affecting their health. Most patients, especially those with complex and serious illnesses, would be seriously challenged to fill in all the gaps—gaps that put their health and safety at risk. Patients aren’t the only ones at risk. Having incomplete or hard-to-access data places the healthcare organization’s reputation and quality scores on the line.

Legacy Data Migration Also Impacts Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is another factor to consider when determining when to migrate old data. We have all experienced the frustration of going to a doctor’s appointment only to be asked the same questions over again or to fill out new demographic and patient history forms because the office was implementing a new EHR. Patients’ satisfaction is improved when all data is available at the time of the visit, and they can trust their provider to focus on their care and not the EHR.

Any obstacles to patient care that result in lower patient satisfaction will have a direct impact on revenue and increase the risk that the clinical staff will push back against the vision of a single EHR and suggest that the old system is a better fit for their special requirements. This becomes a long uphill battle for information services, the EHR vendor, and hospital administration that can stop a deployment.

Planning from the outset on how you will efficiently migrate all vital data from one system to the next helps avoid needless challenges and sets the organization up for success.

Learn more about how Ciox makes accurate patient data available to clinicians after an EMR conversion.

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