How to perform an EMR data conversion without writing a query

If you've ever managed an EMR data conversion, you likely know how painful data conversions can be. They require someone with intimate knowledge of the old EMR to write complex queries to extract the data in the format that the new EMR requires it to be in. In addition, at some point in the process you have to transform the old values into the new system's values (assuming they can be mapped at all!). Even if you have experienced, intelligent people and excellent vendor support during this process it is expensive, time-consuming, risky, and can delay your go-live. So, what if you don't have experienced people and good vendor support for your healthcare data conversion? Believe me, it's gonna get ugly.

I have vast experience with data conversions from legacy systems into the EMR. I ran into many scenarios in which the data was extremely difficult (or impossible) to retrieve in the correct format from the old system. Or there was no one with the right level of expertise at the organization to write the complex queries necessary to retrieve the data. Or the person with the right expertise was the busiest person on the project team and unable to spend the time on data conversions.

 The most common options for dealing with these scenarios were as follows:

  1. Reduce the EMR data conversion scope - this resulted in low user satisfaction and a reduction in downstream reporting and decision support capabilities.
  2. Hire the vendor of the legacy system to retrieve the data - hire the vendor whose product you are sunsetting to help you get data out before kicking them to the curb? Can you say "conflict of interest"? Low cooperation + high cost = frustration!
  3. Hire a consultant - if you can find a consultant with the right level of expertise, the results can be very good. However, this is definitely the most costly approach. It is also very hard to find the right person with the right skill set who is available right when you need them and can hit the ground running.
  4. Hire the new vendor to get the old data for you - this is obviously only possible if the new system's vendor has an experienced, knowledgeable, and tech savvy support team (which we did at Epic). But even then, the support person must learn the old system's data structure on the fly, making it very costly, time-consuming, and risky.

Is there a better option when you are faced with this predicament?  I believe there is. It is extremely likely that the current system already contains user-facing reports containing all of the data you want to migrate. If the data is worthy of being transferred, it must have a consumer, right? Our product's very purpose is to retrieve discrete data from this type of report. We can accept documents from a multitude of source systems and intelligently grab a high percentage of requested data. If the documents are coming from a single system with a single format, retrieving the needed data and outputting it in the needed format becomes a piece of cake!

So, instead of writing a query could you simply generate a PDF summary report for each record? If so, it may be your lucky day.

If this piques your interest or makes you think of other similar opportunities, I'd love to chat with you regardless of your industry or the systems in question. Reach out to me directly or request a call back.

About the Author: Rob Fea

He has spent 12 years partnering with IT teams and clinicians at major hospitals and clinics worldwide during his tenure on the technical services team at Epic. For the vast majority of his time at Epic, Rob supported Epic's Phoenix product, playing a major role in project kickoffs, installation, data conversions, ongoing support, and optimization. During his tenure at Epic, Rob watched the Phoenix customer base expand from 0 to 55 live and installing transplant organizations. It was a terrific experience and he loved every minute of it. It gave him expansive insight into the healthcare world, especially the solid organ transplant industry. He has spent countless hours on the floor in transplant departments observing multidisciplinary visits, committee review meetings, data entry, data trending, reporting, medication dosing, and more.