Legacy Clinical Data Archiving: Beyond a Historical Patient Snapshot

Congratulations! You’ve rolled out a new healthcare information platform! Maybe you’re consolidating on a single solution following a merger, or maybe your legacy system was nearing the end of its useful life. Either way, while the dust is settling you may ask yourself, “When should we decommission the legacy system?”

This is an important question because data from legacy clinical systems often must be easily accessible to users for operational, clinical and compliance reasons. However, keeping legacy clinical systems active can be an expensive proposition. Infrastructure, software maintenance fees and end-user support are all required to keep the old system running. Imagine the pain that end users feel, too. When you have multiple platforms running in parallel, your clinicians have to remember multiple credentials, they have to click from screen to screen, and then they have to cobble together a single view of a patient themselves. Combining the older, existing data with the new platform seems like the better solution. But is it possible?

What are our options?

First, let’s distinguish between data backup and data archiving. With a backup, you take a copy of the data, lock it away in a vault and there it stays, mostly inaccessible unless there’s an emergency. Today, simply backing up data from decommissioned systems is not enough. You want to have on-demand access to historical patient data at the point of care. So rather than just backing up, the best way to serve your patients is to archive your legacy data. The key here is that archiving the data makes it more readily accessible to users as part of their normal course of business.  You’re not just locking away a historic snapshot. You’re keeping that legacy data alive and usable. (See here for other important differences between a backup and an archive.)

Archiving legacy data can take significant time and money. Especially when data from many systems has to be archived, the team needs a solid long-term project plan with a reasonable timeline. Plus, you’ll need to allocate appropriate, skilled resources (internal and external) to ensure projects are executed on time. While you’re at it, you also want to reduce the number of unique logins your users have to manage, ideally getting as close to a single sign-on environment as possible. There are a variety of data archiving approaches available to health systems with varying capabilities. Let’s take a look at some of these options.

The spectrum of data archiving capabilities

There is a range of how robust a legacy clinical data archive system can be. A standalone archiving system sits on the simple end of that range. One can view the old data, but it’s not woven into the current patient record. It meets compliance requirements, but is minimally helpful to clinicians. On the more advanced side of the spectrum, we’ll find the native archival capabilities of a healthcare information platform like InterSystems HealthShare. Here you’ll find a complete longitudinal view of the patient, leveraging your rich archival data alongside current and constantly evolving patient data from your current production systems. This type of solution allows your users to log into one place and see a complete snapshot of both patient history and up-to-date results along with analytics and population health data.

The Range of Legacy Data Archive Solutions

Robust data platforms like HealthShare provide a seamless longitudinal record – even displaying historical data

Standalone backups meet some needs, but an advanced archival solution like InterSystems HealthShare can offer much more. When you give clinicians a more complete patient history without extra clicks or logins, the quality of care improves for all patients.

So what should we look for?

An ideal archiving solution will provide the full power of a health informatics platform including robust patient identity management, advanced analytics and, crucially, the ability to combine legacy data with real-time data in an actionable way.

When that data is combined properly,  we can use SSO and other options such as FHIR to deliver that data back into the current point of care system in a way that fits seamlessly with a provider’s existing workflow.  Then, as those workflows become more sophisticated and requirements evolve, a robust platform like HealthShare can keep up due to its extensibility. It can grow to support new types of data, new standards for exchange and future workflows that a standalone archive system can’t.

Ultimately, the more complete and easily accessible picture of past and present patient data that’s available to clinical decision makers, the more successful your new digital transformation will be.

Read more about Clinical Data Archiving.

Read the latest blog posts on InterSystems PULSE.

About the Author

Mickey Yalon, Chief Technology Officer, J2 Interactive

Mickey Yalon has 20 years of expertise in large-scale systems architecture, database design, application development, and integration projects both inside and outside the healthcare industry. As CTO of J2 Interactive, Mickey is responsible for overseeing all of J2’s software development and system implementation efforts. Within the HealthShare community, Mickey is recognized as one of the pre-eminent solution architects, partnering with InterSystems and its clients to design and implement innovative technology strategies for health information exchange, EMR interoperability, accountable care, and analytics.

About J2 Interactive

J2 Interactive is an award-winning healthcare IT services firm whose deep expertise in application development, interoperability, and analytics drives innovations in health information exchange, patient engagement, and population health. Founded in 2001, J2 has established a reputation as one of the leading providers of customized technology solutions to hospitals, labs, research centers, and HIEs. J2’s approach is rooted in a fundamental belief that systems succeed or fail based on how well they serve the people who depend upon them. Visit www.j2interactive.com and follow them on Twitter @j2_interactive.

J2 Interactive has partnered with InterSystems on systems integration projects since 2004. We can help you find the right solution for keeping your legacy data accessible and relevant. Give us a call to find out how.

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InterSystems blogs are authored by members of the InterSystems team as well as guest bloggers. Our blogs will provide a range of opinions that we hope you will find useful, engaging, informative – and fun to read.

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