What is EMR Conversion in Healthcare?

Summary

When there is a new EHR system, medical data conversion quickly becomes a top priority. The urgency centers around getting all the relevant data into the new system. There are many reasons a conversion is needed, including to streamline data access, enhance patient care and ensure records are accessible and meet the organization’s compliance and regulatory requirements. Conversion can be a complicated process to transfer patient health data from one format or system to another. EMR data conversion services are very specialized and critical to ensure the absolute integrity of the clinical data as it is moved from one EMR or EHR to another. There is one chance to get it right.

What is EMR Data Conversion

What is an EMR?

An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. It contains their medical information including medical history, diagnosis, medication, treatment plans, immunizations, allergies, and lab test results.

What is the difference between an EMR and an EHR?

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). Store and manage patient data within the medical practice but are not designed for easy transfer (interoperability) between different healthcare facilities or providers. EMRs are helpful to track data over time, identify which patients are due for preventative screenings, provide longitudinal monitoring for items like blood pressure readings or vaccinations.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Does everything that an EMR can do and more. EHRs focus on the broader/total health of the patient. EHRs are designed to share information between other providers, labs, and specialists. EHRs are also more equipped to provide patient access.

EHR adoption rates have surged over the past few years. As of 2021, 96 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals and nearly 4 in 5 office-based physicians have implemented a certified EHR system.

Why is an EMR conversion important? What are the benefits and why it is necessary.

When there is a decision to switch EHRs, there needs to be a legacy data strategy about what to do with the historical data that needs to be retained to meet the 21st Century Cures Act as well as federal and state record retention laws.

The plan should include an inventory of all applications/data, an overall strategic roadmap and a determination of which data to convert. Check out our blog on Data Conversion Process Steps for additional guidance.

Often, the decision includes migrating and converting the most recent 18-24 months to the new go-forward EHR, with the remaining data going to an active archive. This allows the legacy applications to be decommissioned which provides many benefits.

The benefits of an EMR conversion with an active archive include:

  • Ongoing access to clinical, financial, and business data in a more equipped EHR system.
  • Reduced risk
  • Lower labor burden
  • Lower costs than maintaining out of production software applications
  • Increased interoperability and being better positioned for the future

Common conversion pitfalls and what kind of timing to expect

One barrier to conversion can be whether the source vendor has encrypted data that is not accessible for normal extract, transform and load (ETL) processes. In these cases, it may be necessary to negotiate with the vendor to obtain the encrypted data. While this problem has existed for many years, the advent of the 21st Century Cures Act – Information Blocking provision, makes it illegal to block or terminate access to protected health information (PHI) maintained by the business associate for or on behalf of the covered entity.

Further, the business associate is required to maintain the availability of the PHI and ensure that it is accessible and usable upon demand. Ideally, the original EHR contract includes information about data transition rights and obligations, which will minimize the risk of data disruption should there be an EHR change in the future.

Recommended transition rights and obligations to have in an EMR vendor contract:

It is advisable to evaluate the length of the initial term of the EHR vendor’s services and support for both cloud-based and licensed EHRs. The ONC has examples of contract language for transition services that may be helpful.

Four items to review and confirm (ideally prior to signing an initial contract) include:

  1. EHR software under license. Make sure you are clear on the vendor support timing in the contract. Sometimes even with a perpetual license, there is a limit on the timing that support is included. Make sure you have the right to use the software during a stated transition period following the end of services.
  2. Auto-renewal for cloud-hosted EHRs. If the service contract contains automatic renewal periods, this means the contract continues in effect unless either party objects by a specific date. So as not to forget about this provision, it might make sense to add in a clause that the contract does not renew without notice.
  3. Transition services. While it may be difficult to predict what types of transition services might be needed, it is important to obtain the EHR vendor’s agreement to provide a reasonable degree of transition assistance.
  4. Data transfer and conversion. It may be helpful to specify a deadline for all data conversion should it become necessary to part ways. This is an important point to have in place up front.

 Conversion services support lifecycle data management

Our deep experience with over 550 legacy applications has helped our team develop best practices, conversion scripts and efficient methods to obtain and render documents for archival.  For example, eClinicalWorks most often hosts the application and must provide both discrete data and documents to ensure accurate and complete conversions are possible. In other cases, there are documents that will need to be converted to PDFs on the fly within the archive, HealthData Archiver®.

The reward of a successful conversion

A new EHR offers exciting possibilities that can be realized once there is a successful conversion of the clinical, financial, and business data to the new system. Having the right health data management solutions in place supports improved care coordination and the industry shift toward patient-centric models. With the organization’s data streamlined into the go-forward EHR with legacy data in an active archive the provider is well positioned for current and future business demands.

 

FAQs

What does an EMR stand for in healthcare?
EMR stands for electronic medical record. It refers to a patient’s digital records or charts that are at a clinician’s office. The information includes clinical notes, medications, medical history, and diagnoses. The EMR is focused on treating the patient within a single practice.

What is the difference between EMR and EHR?
The main difference between an electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) is that the EHR is a much broader system with capabilities to share information across different health care settings. EHRs support coordinated care and allow authorized users, including patients, access to the patient’s health information.

Do all hospitals and healthcare facilities use an EHR?
Most hospitals and healthcare facilities utilize an electronic health record (EHR). Currently, 78 percent of office-based physicians and 96 percent of all non-federal acute care hospitals have adopted a certified EHR. Having a modern EHR helps healthcare providers better meet the requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act which includes interoperability (record sharing) requirements.

What happens to old data in healthcare?

Old data is referred to as legacy data in healthcare. There are a few options for what to do with legacy data within an organization, including maintaining the legacy systems, converting the legacy data to the new EHR, archiving the legacy data to PDFs and archiving the legacy data discretely within an active archive. Archiving the legacy data discretely is often the best choice as it provides the best value and keeps the legacy data accessible, usable, sharable and secure to meet compliance and regulatory requirements.

 

May 15 2024

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