Cost containment is the driver for healthcare providers of all sizes. With the pandemic impacting hospital revenues, and organizations taking a hard look at their application portfolios, there are opportunities to reduce cost and risk by following a data consolidation strategy and legacy system wind down. Our team recently hosted a webinar facilitated by Anthony Guerra, Editor-in-Chief at healthsystemcio.com. The discussion covered seven key areas to consider for lifecycle data management. We appreciate the time and thoughtful perspectives shared by the three panelists who joined our very own Jim Hammer, VP of Operations and Product Development. Panelists included: The driving question is: Is it possible to reduce IT spending by reducing the application portfolio? “Definitely…The ultimate strategy is to try and offload the data onto a single archiving solution so that you no longer have to pay for support, because you obviously are obligated to save the data and retain it for a number of years… It is a huge cost saver. It is great that there are solutions out there to aggregate all the data into a single archive,” shared Hudson.”Our record retention policy for most clinical data has a 20-year life. Luckily on our side, our leadership committee is committed to this initiative and I think that makes a big difference. They understand the upfront cost, but they can see the long-term benefits from doing this work,” added Branigan. “Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. You need to look at the return on investment,” added Duryee. Looking at the cost for maintaining legacy systems and applications, there are three areas to obtain savings with an archive vs keeping the legacy system up and running in read-only mode: Hard costs – Maintenance costs, renewals, infrastructure costs for servers Soft costs – Staffing and ensuring support is onsite to support legacy applications Risk costs – Security, compliance and risk aversion if data is not available due to a technical breakdown or compromised by a security breach Over time, providers may find their application portfolios are bloated. How can this be stopped? “We are entering into new partnerships with other health systems and practices, so that is the main cause of how our application portfolios get out of whack. We find ourselves with several applications that are doing the same thing, so when we do an integration of a new practice or a new hospital, we have teams that will go through what applications we are bringing on board and whether it’s a duplicate from our standard,” said Branigan.”We have had some niche systems, but really back to the ROI, we have one central committee that approves or disapproves standalone systems. That is important to do that centrally,” added Duryee. “You need an overall organizational strategic plan, so that each department isn’t on their own path and you end up with all these disparate systems,” added Hudson. What are some techniques for application portfolio management? “Usually what happens is we will work with our clients to build an inventory list and the things that are obvious maintenance costs like renewal dates of those applications for maintenance contracts… certain contracts have annual renewal contracts that can be negotiated down to quarterly or monthly renewals so when systems come offline those costs can be minimized,” shared Hammer. “Risk may elevate a certain application to the top of the decommission list. We have had some really unstable environments and downtime scares people… And, with acquisitions we will help with the playbook to help develop an archive plan based on past policies, procedures, compliance and governance. Our inventory tool can be helpful too.” What types of buy-in from stakeholders is needed as you go through the archiving process? What is the CIO’s role and IT’s role?“A lot of organizations put governance in place for a system implementation… but legacy data doesn’t get the attention it needs and becomes a supporting project. It is an important point upfront with your governance committees to decide on the legacy data,” shared Duryee.”IT’s role now has reached a pinnacle where they need to lead. With all the regulations and compliance, it is often my job to find solutions for other folks and to think ahead of what our operational leaders are wanting to do and put solutions in front of them,” added Hudson. “We have a record retention steering committee that meets monthly. It is made up of Legal, Compliance, HIM, IT, etc. We review these projects and determine whether or not it is in the best interest of the long-term strategic plan to archive this data,” said Branigan. How do you ensure sunset applications and data transfer still ensures data quality and security? “This is easier for smaller applications and more difficult for full EMRs, but ensuring data quality is so crucial. We go through a very, very stringent validation process for every application we archive. We keep the source application around and when the archive is at the stage where we can test it and validate it, we have a full team on our end that goes in, brings out 10-20 patients and looks at every single piece of data in that patient record, compares it to the data that was archived to ensured everything was copied over,” shared Branigan.”Time required to validate the data needs to be added in… You really need to look at legacy vendors. What is their longevity going to be and their willingness or ability to negotiate? We had a situation with a one-year contract with a legacy vendor and then wanted to go month-to-month. The premium to do that was cost prohibitive, so it accelerated our plan to archive,” added Duryee.”We do an automated level of testing, for record row counts, then we do a heavy set of similar verification of side by side comparisons. So much so that we built a communication protocol into our application for submission of validation items that are found during that phase. This can shrink timelines from two to six weeks on average. We also invested in HITRUTST certification which includes more than 400 control measures that we have to meet to make sure we are good stewards of the data,” added Hammer. How do you encourage users to agree with sunsetting an application to avoid the “hanger-on” effect that we can’t shut it down for X reason? “The steering committee has to have a list of what they are charged with, they have to hold firm and really look at ROI and not just personal preference,” shared Duryee. “And, have demos and allow end users to bring in sample records, instead of a heavy-handed approach.””Give a demo and share the goals. (Explain) we want this data to be moved over and this is what it is going to look like. Once you do that, they quickly get on board and it’s not as painful of a process because the way our active data looks is very similar to the original application,” added Branigan. Is there a strong value proposition in moving the archive to the cloud? “About 80-90 percent of our customers choose the hosted option. The price points have come down and there are benefits from a maintenance perspective as well in the cloud. If you upgrade one item it upgrades all using the remotely hosted environment vs. CAB (change advisory board) processes and individual customer-related downtime for upgrades,” shared Hammer. Looking for a healthcare data management firm with deep experience migrating and archiving patient, employee and business records? Our team of experts has extracted, converted, migrated and retained data from over 500 clinical, financial and administrative software brands. That information is secured on our cloud-based storage platform, HealthData ArchiverTM, which is live in production on Epic’s App Orchard. Harmony Healthcare IT has been ranked #1 in the 2020 Best in KLAS Software & Services Report as a Category Leader in Data Archiving, and as the top data extraction and migration healthcare IT company according to Black Book™ Market Research in 2019 and 2020. We were also selected by Modern Healthcare as one of the 2019 Best Places to Work in Healthcare. Let’s connect.