Healthcare Technology Featured Article

June 16, 2015

Considerations for Legacy Data Archival Project

As hospitals expedite electronic medical record (EMR) implementations to meet meaningful use requirements, they are often left with a need to archive data from legacy systems.

Data archiving is the process of extracting data from multiple legacy applications, and then transferring it to an archival system in a standardized format representative of the original data. If your organization is in the process of decommissioning legacy systems, following are several considerations for archiving the legacy data.

1. When establishing a data archive project, the initial step is to take inventory of all systems targeted for legacy data conversion and that will be replaced by the EMR. Determine the financial costs associated with each legacy system, such as maintenance costs, server cost, potential remote host cost, and costs to retain skill sets to maintain old legacy applications. From an operational standpoint, migrating legacy systems into an archival system will require maintaining one application versus several.

2. In working with the data, it is important to identify which data has already been converted to the EMR and which residual data still exists in the legacy systems. Evaluate what data to retain for clinical use, compliance, legal, research, and operations. To determine the data types targeted for legacy conversion, state the following key identification elements in your project plan:

  • The main stakeholders for each application
  • All data types required for retention in each system
  • Whether any of the data is replicated in another system by identifying source of truth
  • How data will be used by each stakeholder
  • An outline of what constitutes the legal medical record (LMR)
  • Definition of the LMR retention and destruction policy

3. Once the determination is made regarding what data is required for retention based on business needs, the vendor archival system selection process can begin. Consider the following application requirements:

  • If the data conversion to the EMR only converted minimal years of data, access to historical clinical information during real-time patient care will be needed. In the archival system selection process, the ability to auto-invoke the archival system from the EMR will become essential. This capability will allow providers to easily access historical patient information at the time of care. NOTE: The archival vendor must be able to perform two functions: 1) integrate with the EMR to launch the legacy archival system, and 2) update the master patient index (MPI) when the system of truth has MPI updates.
  • Ensure that the data transferred from multiple legacy applications can be standardized. If similar data types are converted from multiple systems to the legacy system, the archival system must be able to display the data from multiple systems in a standardized, easy-to-read display for end users.
  • Find out if your organization’s Health Information Management (HIM) department release of information (ROI) or medical records release module will be replaced with the new EMR. If yes, the legacy archival system must provide an ROI module to meet HIM release of medical records operational requirements. In selecting the right vendor, lean on the HIM department to weigh in on the necessary module criteria.
  • Maintaining a legacy system to work down accounts receivable (A/R) may not be the most effective strategy. The organization should calculate the monthly and annual maintenance cost to retain the legacy system and determine whether it would be more cost-efficient to work down A/R in the archival system instead.
  • What is the facility’s medical record retention/destruction policy? The archival system should provide the ability to destroy data based on the facility’s retention policy.

Once the determination is made to what data is required for retention and what system functionalities are mandatory, the work for decommissioning the legacy systems can begin. Costs associated with maintaining each legacy application will be the driving factor in establishing scheduled timeline for decommissioning each application.

How has your organization handled legacy data to date? Do you have plans for decommissioning legacy systems? What challenges have you faced and how did you solve them?

About the Author: Ulkar Abbas is principal consultant, advisory services with CTG Health Solutions.  She has more than 13 years of experience in health information technology, including: electronic health record product development and implementation; health information exchange; patient portal; Meaningful Use; medication clearinghouse; pharmacy systems; legacy data archival systems; and encoder systems. She can be reached at

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
By TMCnet Special Guest
Ulkar Abbas, Principal Consultant, Advisory Services, CTG Health Solutions ,

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