When organizations are in the midst of a major implementation or migration, it’s expected that certain tasks might be placed on the backburner. Data archiving, however, can’t be one of those. “It becomes an afterthought because you’re so busy,” said Chuck Podesta, CIO at Renown Health. “You need to make sure your archiving strategy is embedded in that implementation.”
With so many mergers and acquisitions taking place, it’s become more important than ever to ensure a smooth transition. But there are myriad bumps on the road that can make it challenging. During a recent webinar, Podesta and co-panelists Saad Chaudhry (CIO, Luminis Health) and Abhishek Begerhotta (CEO, 314e Corporation) shared insights from their own experiences on how to navigate the journey.
Oftentimes, when organizations acquire facilities, they come with a mix of EHR systems – some of which are housed on premise, and some in the cloud. “As you bring them in, it’s not just bringing them into your EHR; now you have to deal with legacy data,” said Chaudhry. And even when clinics have the same EHR vendor, it’s not necessarily a simple process. When Luminis Health was formed in 2019 as the result of a merger, about 20 practices were added. And although there were just a few different EHR systems being used, there were more than a dozen instances — and, subsequently, data structures — that had to be managed, a factor that’s often overlooked.
“Just because you have the same EHR vendor, it doesn’t always mean that you’re going to be able to easily combine legacy data and sunset applications that are running on a server just for archival purposes,” Chaudhry noted. “It’s not going to be plug and play. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Information is value”
Whereas in the past, data were brought in solely for retention purposes, now, because of the digitization of records — and requirements stemming from the 21st Century Cures Act — it needs to be actionable. This is especially true for Renown, which recently partnered with University of Reno Nevada Medical School to move into the academic realm.
“We’re in a world where information is value and data is liquid gold,” Begerhotta noted. “A lot of organizations want to use this archived data for analytics,” and as a result, require more sophisticated tools to weed through it. For other organizations, the end goal is to convert the data and input it into a new EHR system.
In any event, it’s not something that should be taken lightly — or without guidance, said Podesta. “You want to have a partner that’s dealt with various EHRs and different types of ERP systems. That way, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” What’s also important is having a vendor who will set realistic expectations in terms of cost and timelines, and ensure CIOs understand the level of complexity involved.
“There’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all scenario where as soon as you bring in a hospital or a facility, or sunset an application, you’ll know exactly what you need to do with the data, and how it needs to be transformed for the archive,” said Chaudhry. “You need to be comfortable with that.”
A “thoughtful approach”
Begerhotta agreed, adding it’s vital that organizations approach data archiving projects with eyes wide open. One way to do that is by going over contracts with a fine-toothed comb before signing, especially for software-as-a-service. “You need to have your lawyers review it really well, as far as the price points and the availability of your data,” he said. “Getting that from the outgoing vendor can be a challenge.”
That, according to Chaudhry, is an understatement, which is why Luminis has adopted a “thoughtful approach” in how data is collected, where it’s stored, and the how the vendor plans to secure it. Just as important is determining who owns the data after an agreement is terminated, and how health systems can access it.
And while vendors won’t deny access to the data, they also won’t necessarily make it an easy process. “If you’re canceling a contract, they’re not going to put their star engineer on your account to help you get the data in the exact way that you need so you can smoothly archive it,” he said.
“It’s not turnkey”
The best way to avoid these situations? By treating the contract as a prenuptial agreement, according to Podesta. “All good contracts are done when you manage the divorce first,” he noted. “You need to map that out so when you give 60 to 90 days’ notice, everyone knows what happens — what is our responsibility as a customer, and what’s the vendor’s responsibility.”
It’s a delicate balance; one that requires flexibility from both sides, and a willingness to negotiate, noted Chaudhry. “It’s not a standard, turnkey thing. And so, as you’re going through that initial analysis and review to figure out what you and your partner need to do, you may go back to the application vendor and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to have our data in this manner instead. We know you’re capable of doing it. Can you do this?’”
If vendors want to create lasting relationships, the answer to that question — at least, the majority of the time — should be yes, said Begerhotta. “You need to put the customer first and not get caught up in petty negotiations,” even if it hurts a bit in the short term. “When you treat your customers well, it’s reciprocated.” At the same time, CIOs and other leaders need to recognize that vendors also have a bottom line to consider. “You don’t want to bankrupt them,” noted Podesta.
What CIOs do want is to avoid the hassles — and added costs — that result from failing to invest in data archiving. “We often run into customers who don’t think about archival enough in advance,” Begerhotta said. By planning for it alongside a major initiative, “it can save a lot of headaches down the road.”
To view the archive of this webinar — Data Archival: Minimizing Risk, Maximizing ROI (Sponsored by 314e) — please click here.
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