To Convert Patient Data Or Not to Convert - Historical Data Will Be More Valuable
Than You May Think
Going live on a new computer system without a data conversion, especially in
healthcare, is more often the choice than paying
the cost and making the effort to convert old information. Many reasons are
offered to persuade or justify this decision.
In the end, clinicians and providers frequently (perhaps secretly) wish
their historical data were available in the
new system. This is
particularly true of clinical system records (EMR or EHR).
Can the old data, once left behind, still be recovered and made useful
It costs nothing or very little to ask and often the answer can be a
qualified yes. The value of the old information as a measure against the cost
of the conversion depends on several things: 1.quality and format of the data
in the old system; 2. data integrity parameters of the new system; 3. skill of
the conversion team.
ADDING data to an existing, in-production
system can be a challenge and if not done correctly can create retrieval
and possibly data integrity problems.
The two key factors governing the challenge of loading data into a live
database are: 1. accurately matching the patient ID; 2. knowing how to add historical
information into a live database so that it does not compromise
a patient's current information. Fortunately these obstacles can often be
overcome and a clean migration delivered.
There are at least two options for consideration:
The most straight forward method is to
create images of the old data, such as pdfs, and load
them into the image folder(s) and associated directory in the new system. This
has the obvious limitation of the ease of data retrieval. Also, none of the
information is digitized so it cannot be
computerized into averages, graphic representation or similar uses.
A more useful transfer of data is to add it
to the new system in digital format. The results of this
choice are governed first by the format of the data in the old system. Digital
data can be converted into digital fields if adequate integrity rules were
adhered to in the old system. Non-digital data will come over to the new system
in a non-digital format.
The need for data migration is growing as
the complexity of patient medical information increases, interrelationships
among patient and providers broadens, and the value of historical
data in patient care becomes more important in treating current illnesses. When
transitioning to a new computer system, data can no longer be casually left