Healthcare Data Archiving

By Julie Fouque, VP of Marketing

Healthcare data archiving contributes to an organization’s overall information governance and data management strategy. When done well, it can reduce costs, strengthen data security and compliance, and improve patient care. If neglected, it can result in increased costs and financial penalties and detract from successful patient outcomes.

This blog describes what healthcare data archiving is, who does it and why, how archiving is done, and results typically achieved.

What Healthcare Data Archiving Is

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There are two general scenarios for archiving data: active archiving and archiving data from legacy systems. Active archiving refers to the identification of information on production systems that reaches a point of inactivity—when it effectively becomes static—and moving it automatically to an archive. In contrast, archiving data from legacy systems is done to “turn off” these systems while providing ongoing access to, and safeguarding of, their data.

Both active archiving and archiving data from legacy systems applies to any application within a healthcare organization, from electronic health record (EHR), financial, and human resources systems to home-grown applications and more.

Why Archive Healthcare Data?

There are several common reasons why healthcare organizations archive data. They include:

  • Corporate Compliance: Healthcare is subject to stringent HIPAA and other data management guidelines. One area not to be overlooked is how you handle information on legacy systems. The more outdated, unsupported legacy applications you have, the greater the risk of non-compliance. By archiving data to a modern archiving system with improved retention policy, cloud provisioning and modern security models, you can mitigate risk.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions: One of the first tasks the IT department is given following a merger or acquisition is to absorb applications from the acquired or merged organization. The next task is to rationalize the application portfolio to remove duplicated and redundant applications and minimize costs. To do this, IT departments musts archive data from legacy systems so the systems can be decommissioned and cost savings realized.
  • Application Optimization: The daily business of providing healthcare creates high volumes of data. As data volumes grow, they can slow down production systems. Moving business-complete information from production systems to an archive keeps production systems running smoothly while providing capabilities to meet data compliance mandates.
  • Application Rollout or Implementation: When an organization implements a new application, such as an EHR, accounting, or human resource system, it will need to 1) Migrate data from existing applications to the new application and 2) Decommission the existing systems once the new application has been implemented. Archiving legacy data and decommissioning the old system lets you reduce overall costs while providing easy access to historical data for users of the new application.
  • Application Rationalization or Modernization: Organizations undertaking application rationalization or modernization initiatives typically are seeking to reduce the cost and complexity of their application portfolios and ensure that the remaining production applications can support the business in the most flexible and cost-effective way. A key element includes identifying older applications that no longer provide operational value and that can release resources back into the organization by being decommissioned and their data archived to a future-proof, compliant repository.
  • Data Center Consolidation: Data center consolidation programs are driven by the need to reduce IT infrastructure cost and complexity, i.e., moving from using three data centers to one. Rather than lifting and shifting outdated, unsupported applications to the new consolidated data center, and paying for ongoing support, you can remove the costs of maintaining legacy applications that are in read-only mode by retiring them and archiving their data.

Who is Responsible for Data Archiving?

Healthcare data archiving responsibilities are shared primarily by the Chief Data Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Medical Information Officer, and their teams. Their responsibilities intersect at the points of information governance (an organization’s strategy for managing information throughout its lifecycle to meet internal and external requirements), information volume (understanding how much structured and unstructured data you have and how much is being generated from which sources), and information management (the execution of your information management strategy, or where the best place is to put information as it travels throughout its lifecycle, and the processes and systems required to support that journey).

While one individual might champion data archiving as a pillar of your information management strategy, the stronger the cross-functional partnership in building and supporting it, the more successful you will be.

How to Pursue Healthcare Data Archiving

Best practices in healthcare data archiving include 1) developing a comprehensive archiving strategy, 2) selecting a healthcare archiving solution or software that meets technical and functional requirements and 3) preparing for evolving archiving requirements.

  • Develop an Archiving Strategy: Before you begin archiving, take the time to develop a comprehensive healthcare data archiving strategy that encompasses information from all areas of your organization, including clinical and non-clinical data from EHRs, accounting, human resources, and other systems. Your strategy should account for information in paper and digital formats for both structured and unstructured content, that you are keeping for retention and other business or compliance purposes.
  • Select Healthcare Data Archiving Software: Your archiving solution or software should meet all technical requirements, in particular the ability to:
    • Deploy on premise, in the cloud, or as a hybrid solution
    • Integrate with document and image scanners and feed digitized information directly to the archive
    • Integrate with production systems
    • Support multiple data types as well as structured and unstructured information from multiple applications
    • Provide security controls, audit trails, and retention/legal hold capabilities
    • Scale to support archiving needs today and for the future
    • Provide interfaces for multiple types of users, such as clinicians, HIM staff, and revenue cycle teams
  • Plan for Evolving Requirements: Many healthcare organizations recognize that as their businesses and data volumes evolve, so, too, will their archiving requirements. Therefore, it’s wise to select a vendor that can guide you through your changing needs and provide support services as required. Another option is to train your internal staff so they can gain the skills to support ongoing archiving requirements. Whichever option you choose, do so knowing that the requirements you begin your archiving project with will change over time and you should have a strategy to address ongoing requirements.

Results

Like many business solutions, healthcare data archiving can help you run your organization better, faster, and at a lower cost. Specifically, by archiving data you typically can expect to:

  • Optimize production systems – by moving business-complete information to an archive
  • Safeguard historical patient information – by archiving legacy EHR data
  • Facilitate audits and litigation events – by making it easy to find all required historical information in a central archive
  • Facilitate analytics and machine learning – by removing data silos and making historical information easily available
  • Reduce capex costs – by archiving data from legacy systems and decommissioning those systems
  • Increase revenues – by making it easy for revenue cycle teams to collect on outstanding patient accounts in legacy systems
  • And improve patient care – by giving clinicians easy access to historical patient data from a central archive

Next Steps

Flatirons Digital Innovations specializes in healthcare data archiving. For nearly a decade, we have worked with hospitals and healthcare networks to safeguard historical data from applications across their organizations. We can help you articulate an archiving strategy for your organization. Contact us to begin a conversation.

If you have a data archiving strategy and are researching solutions, take a look at Flatirons Digital Hub for Healthcare. Our archiving solution delivers benefits to clinicians, HIM staff, and revenue cycle teams while providing a foundation for an enterprise-wide archiving strategy.

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