Posts By: Beth Osborne

Your Unsupported Legacy Systems Spell Risk

unsupported legacy systems

There are probably technology dinosaurs lingering in your organization. Hardware and software both have finite lives, but that doesn’t mean you retired them. Your IT team experienced fluctuations and change like never before in 2020, which probably derailed implementations. The reality is you likely have unsupported legacy systems, servers, and applications, and they are all ripe for risk. 

It’s time to set a new course for how you retire legacy servers and applications.

Study Finds Legacy Platforms Remain in Use

In the 2020 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey, some critical findings on legacy usage are important to note. 

  • Only 45% of respondents include legacy systems in risk assessments.
  • 80% of organizations said they have legacy systems in place.

That’s concerning, and the survey had little change from 2019 to 2020 in retirement or removal. 

Why Is Legacy Retirement Difficult in Healthcare? 

Legacy platforms are hard to retire for several reasons. Expense is a big one, but the cost of not retiring is even higher. Other challenges include the replacement’s implementation slowed, or internal teams cannot convert data from the old platform to the new one. 

However, regulatory bodies continue to impress upon healthcare the threats of not retiring. In particular, a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report declared that unsupported legacy applications are “putting patient and sensitive data at risk.”

The message is that legacy equals risk. If a system, server, or application no longer receives updates, then cybercriminals will exploit it if given a chance. The industry has already seen many cautionary tales. 

Managing Health Information Systems Is Complex

In the world of healthcare, you don’t typically have one health information system (HIS) or even one EHR. Healthcare IT News reported that, based on HIMSS analytics, the average hospital has 16 disparate EHRs, and 75% have 10. And that’s just the EHRs. There are many more HIS in the healthcare ecosystem, such as those for pharmacy, labs, and decision support.

There is continuous movement in the software space for healthcare. EHR dissatisfaction is rampant. Organizations need applications to meet new regulatory requirements. Interoperability is still chaos, and IT teams can hardly keep pace. It’s no wonder that legacy platforms are still so prevalent. 

Planning for Retirement: Building a Data Legacy Strategy

Retiring legacy applications and servers not only reduces risk but can also save you money and be more efficient. To achieve this, you need a legacy data management strategy. To develop this, you have to decide what to do with the data to retire the platform officially. 

  • Do you want to convert it? If you’re replacing the platform, then you’ll want to convert the data from the old to the new. Once the data conversion is complete, you can decommission the system. 
  • Do you want to archive it? You don’t have to convert all the patient records to your new software. You can opt to archive it on a web-based, secure, and compliant solution. It lives in the cloud and will be accessible for as long as medical record retention requirements require. 
  • Do you want to move it? Moving the data is somewhat like a conversion, but it’s not between like platforms. There may be old patient data that you want to use in a new system, and the legacy application is just a parking lot. The reason why it remains there is typically because internal groups lack the capacity. However, you can work with a reputable, experienced third-party to move it. 
  • Do you want to delete it? If you are no longer legally obligated to keep the data, and it has no value, then you could purge it. If purging, do so in a secure, compliant manner. 

Get the Support You Need to Move on from Legacy Systems

Unsupported legacy platforms are costing you money and time while increasing your risk. It’s time to move on from them and turn the page so that you can focus on the applications that matter. Trust our healthcare data experts to help with data conversions, archiving, and sharing. Contact us today to learn more. 

Why Secure Healthcare Data Sharing Is Crucial

healthcare data sharing

In a digital world, we’re all used to how easy it is to exchange data. One might think that’s how the healthcare industry works. After all, most people have more than one doctor, and it’s a good idea that providers have access to the entire history of a patient. Unfortunately, healthcare data sharing isn’t that simple. While the push for interoperability is a goal of the U.S. healthcare system, it’s still challenging for most. 

The Risks of Healthcare Data Sharing

The risks associated with data sharing in healthcare exist because records contain personal health information (PHI). HIPAA mandates are very specific about how to handle PHI, whether internally or externally. Encryption methods must be in place for the secure exchange of information. Many organizations consistently do this through integrations; however, health system IT teams often lack the bandwidth for these projects. While the risks are real, there may be even more risk to patient care without sharing. 

Healthcare Data Sharing Challenges

So, why isn’t data sharing routine in the industry? It’s a complex problem—one that’s prevalent. A study by the Center for Connected Medicine found that only 69% of healthcare IT leaders said they were effective at data sharing. The report details that stakeholders are making more moves toward interoperability. Many are switching EHRs to make this easier. 

CMS and HHS took on the subject last year with the interoperability rule. This rule wasn’t just about the interchange of data between providers but also enabling patient access. COVID-19, however, impacted its rollout. Challenges persist regarding standardization, unstructured data, and security concerns. 

Healthcare systems are taking strides, but they often need support from data management companies because their internal team lacks the capacity or expertise. 

The Benefits of Sharing Healthcare Data

There are many benefits of data exchange in healthcare, including:

  • Improving patient care when clinicians have a full picture of their history.
  • Population health management, which is critical right now in the pandemic. 
  • Reducing medical costs with continuity of care, which could prevent emergency room visits or readmissions.
  • Better medication adherence and prevention of prescription adverse reactions.
  • Large-scale analytics for chronic disease or genetic studies.

For healthcare to seamlessly move into the 21st-century and beyond, efficient data exchanges are vital. 

The Security Aspect

First and foremost, any PHI sharing activities must be compliant with HIPAA. There are misconceptions about HIPAA and data sharing. However, HIPAA’s intent was to ensure secure data sharing among parties. HIPAA doesn’t prohibit data sharing; it simply provides a framework to do it securely with encryption and other protocols. HIPAA is not a barrier.

The security concerns are high because healthcare is a huge target for hackers. Anyone in healthcare knows that there’s safe exchange of every data from electronic prescriptions to lab work to referrals to specialists. Consistency in security is what stands in the way, and that goes back to IT bandwidth and capabilities.

Secure Data Sharing Can Revolutionize Healthcare

If healthcare gets data sharing right, then the industry can finally fully evolve. There are so many possibilities and efficiencies. It could improve care, help organizations make better decisions, and reduce overall costs. 

If you’d like to know more about data sharing and how we can help, watch our video

Pharmacy Data Management 101

pharmacy data management

Data is a part of every business, and pharmacies are swimming in it. You have patient, prescription, and other data critical to your operations and profitability. But what does pharmacy data management really mean? As a company with over two decades of experience with pharmacy data, we know all about it and how to manage it in a way that makes sense. 

Pharmacy Patient Data

Within your pharmacy management system are all your patient records. In a few clicks, you can see everything about an individual and the prescriptions they take. The biggest challenge we see with patient data is moving it around when necessary.

Typically, the most important movement is when you decide to transition to a new platform. Data from your old system needs to flow into your new one. A pharmacy data conversion sounds complicated, and in a way, it is. There are many variables in these migrations. Field mapping and accuracy of the utmost importance. Compliance and security are as well. 

Luckily, we pretty much wrote the script for data conversions. Our founders were the first to do it way back in 1997! Since then, we’ve completed thousands of pharmacy data migrations, ensuring that the data is accessible and correct. 

Prescription Data

Pharmacies need clarity around prescription data for many reasons:

  1. It’s valuable to know volume and sales so that you can forecast future numbers.
  2. You may monitor it for drug shortage predictions, which are a concern for many pharmacies.
  3. You also have to be aware of the controlled substances that patients are using to ensure there’s no misuse or possible fraud.

Pharmacy analytics are critical for prescription data.

What Happens When Your Data Becomes Too Big?

Medical record retention laws require pharmacies to keep patient data for at least 10 years. Some states have even longer intervals. However, many of those records may no longer be active, so they’re just taking up space in your pharmacy software. Other times when you decide to convert to a new system, you don’t want to bring everything over to the new platform. 

When data becomes too big, the easy solution is data archiving. We offer a web-based archiving system. It’s easy to use and meets compliance and retention mandates. It lives in the cloud so that you can access it from anywhere with credentials. Our archiving solution also accepts multiple file formats—documents, images, and data.

Having an archive takes the strain off your system. It allows you to eliminate a legacy system or on-site server completely. It saves money and time. 

Pharmacy Data Management Best Practices

As with any discipline, there are best practices to consider with pharmacy data management. Here are some tips to always keep in mind.

  • Work with partners that have robust security and encryption protocols.
  • Require that all vendors that access your patient data sign a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which is a requirement. 
  • Ask about provider experience with pharmacy data—it’s a lot different than any other industry and has many caveats. 
  • Look for flexible platforms or workflows that are customizable to your needs.
  • Discuss concerns, challenges, and processes before you convert or archive.

We Are Pharmacy Data Management Experts

We are proud to serve the pharmacy industry, helping chain, independent, specialty, and LTC pharmacies manage their data with conversions, archiving, and analytics. Find out more about how we work by downloading our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Pharmacy Data Conversions.