By George Florentine, VP of Technology

A healthcare archiving checklist is a great tool for healthcare providers that need to archive data from outdated, overlapping, or redundant electronic health record (EHR) or other systems. A checklist like the one we provide here covers considerations for major components of your healthcare archiving strategy to set you up for success.

Let’s dive right in!

  1. Identify ROI and Risk Mitigation Benefits

Before you begin your archiving project, make sure you understand the ROI and risk mitigation benefits. You’re probably going to spend money to create the archive – new deployment costs, external software and consulting costs, recurring maintenance and hosting costs, etc. Along the way someone will probably ask, “Why are we spending money to replace a system that has very low costs today?”

The answer is your ROI story – both hard and soft ROI as well as risk management. This is usually an easy sell if you’ve done your homework. But if you’re not prepared with the appropriate data, the project could be delayed or cancelled.

  1. Enlist Key Stakeholders

Identify stakeholders and make sure they’re bought in and available for requirements definition and design work. Many people will leave a meeting having approved a retirement project for an EHR, revenue cycle, or custom departmental app and think “I’m glad I can check that issue off my list!”

But for a successful retirement project for clinical or revenue cycle applications, you’ll still need clinicians, HIM, IT, revenue cycle and regulatory compliance stakeholders involved. If you can’t get the attention of these folks, either the project will continually stall, or you’ll build an archive that will never get into production.

  1. Get IT On Board

Your healthcare archiving checklist also should include getting IT on board. The archive may end up being hosted and managed by 3rd party partners, or it may be managed and hosted by your IT staff. In either case, you need IT’s involvement.

Where’s the existing data? How do we get at the data? Is the data accessible at the speeds required for the project?

For example, let’s say you’ve acquired a hospital system with a data center that you’re going to close and aren’t going to integrate into your network. And you’ve got to get 10 terabytes of data from the old data center. If IT isn’t involved, you’ll never get these problems solved. Or maybe you’ve chosen a modern archiving solution but it uses technologies that none of your IT staff has been trained on. If you don’t get them trained on this new tech, you’ll have serious issues trying to get into production.

  1. Don’t Reinvent the App

Sometimes you’ll have the opposite problem of not getting enough attention from stake holders and your business users will act like it’s their birthday and they can ask for all sorts of great presents! People may start saying “I never did like this feature. Now we can do it right!” The first mantra you need to recite (and recite it frequently) is “It’s an ARCHIVE!” Limited update capabilities, limited integrations with other production systems, simpler security models, different (more limited) access models by end users, etc.

If you don’t get this vision firmly established early in the process, you’ll miss your ROI and time to market goals.

  1. Keep It Simple, But Not Incomplete

Remember – IT’S AN ARCHIVE. So, simple is better – but not so simple that you introduce business continuity challenges. You might not need to completely integrate your archive with your latest initiative on machine learning tools that are being used to build predictive models for improved patient outcomes. But you’ll certainly need some level of reporting to satisfy regulatory requirements and clinician requirements for accessing legacy data to assist in treating current patients who are in your production system but have health issues that are only documented in legacy systems.

This is probably the healthcare archiving checklist item that is trickiest to get right. Striking the balance between functional completeness and the real needs of an archive is a bit of an art form. The best advice here is to circle back to one of our first items – get stakeholders on board that understand the legacy system and understand that the needs of a clinical archive will be a subset of the existing application.

  1. Start Simple

Choose simple apps with big payback first. Most archiving projects execute over a period of months to years and get tuned by the experience gained during the initial archiving projects. Start with an application that has good payback for the business but isn’t overly complicated. You’ll learn about IT challenges, how to work with your clinicians on requirements gathering and design reviews and shake out deployment challenges, tune the processes for responding to regulatory requirements, etc.

Gaining an early success on a valuable but not overwhelming first project will help the archiving program gain internal advocates and pave the way for increasing the speed and efficacy of subsequent archiving projects while providing measurable business value along the way. A win-win for many different parts of the business!

  1. Anticipate Long-Term Needs

The final item on the healthcare archiving checklist is anticipating long-term needs, or doing an inventory your candidate applications and avoiding target-locking on one legacy system type. The initial drive for data archiving and application decommissioning might be the closure of a data center that runs a mainframe legacy EHR such as McKesson Paragon. But remember, overall program ROI and program longevity are your two-key metrics for program success.

You might choose an archiving solution and consulting partner that has experience in McKesson Paragon and your first six months are hugely successful. But then you do an M&A that introduces some Cerner legacy systems, then Meditech, then home grown EHRs, then legacy revenue cycle apps, then back-office business apps such as HR, payroll, etc.

By building a candidate application inventory, you’ll see the value of selecting solutions and partners that can cover the breath of systems you’ll want to manage. Think strategically about solution spaces, technology choices, and vendor choices. Then start implementing incrementally to achieve short-term success with a strategic long-term roadmap.

Flatirons and Healthcare Data Archiving

Flatirons Digital Innovations specializes in healthcare data archiving. We work with hospitals and healthcare providers across North America to archive clinical and non-clinical data to support compliance, reduce costs, and enable improved patient care. Our healthcare archiving solution, Flatirons Digital Hub for Healthcare, provides secure and efficient access to data from legacy EHRs and financial systems, while making historical patient data available for analytics and machine learning.