Legacy Databases: Should You Purge Your Records?

Healthcare, Pharmacy

December 11th, 2020

Legacy databases can be a headache. When you choose to archive them, should you purge records? Check out our recommendations on purging.

legacy databases

Legacy databases are both a necessity and a headache. On the one hand, due to medical record retention requirements, you have to keep some patient records for at least seven years. On the other hand, keeping your legacy system running is costly, risky, and cumbersome. So, if you’re finally making the choice to archive your data, what should you and can you purge?

The Rules of Purging 

What are the rules of purging? Are there any industry standards? While there are no definitive purging guidelines, you can look to these three areas to provide insight.

First, you need to be clear on compliance. Determine based on HIPAA and other regulations what patient records you must retain. These will differ by state and the type of provider you are—hospital, healthcare system, pharmacy, etc. 

For example, in pharmacy, you need to retain patient signatures they provide at pickup much of the time. However, you may not have to keep POS data. 

Second, purging should really focus on data and records that are stale or inaccurate. That data could be things like old addresses or insurance information for patients. It could also include inactive or unlinked data not attached to a prescription in the case of a pharmacy. 

Third, there could be unnecessary file extensions in your legacy database. These may be files created by the legacy system, which aren’t patient-related. They only relate to the software, so you don’t need those when you archive.

How Can You Identify the “Right” Files to Purge?

Well, we have described the three buckets for purging. You can work with your data archiving partner to create rules around what to purge. That could include records older than a specific date that no longer fall into mandatory retention. The archiver can also do a data cleanse of your records before archive. The cleanse will do two things: repair issues around structure and formatting and discover stale data. 

The parameters of your “stale” data are for you to define. They could include unlinked data that has no record home. They may also outline the specific types of files to keep versus delete. Not everything in a patient record requires retention; some of it could just be junk that would never be part of an audit request. (FYI: audit requests are the leading reason to produce archival data in healthcare.)

Archive Legacy Databases and Purge!

There are numerous reasons why archiving is beneficial for healthcare. You’ll save money and time and provide a more secure environment. However, don’t just move everything. Purging old records that have no value is a must when you archive. 

Have questions about archiving and purging? Visit our information page on our archive platform, ViewMaster, and request a quick five-minute demo today. 

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