Switching EHRs? Transferring Data Can Be a Hurdle


Ready to part ways with your electronic health record (EHR) and move to a different one?

In making the shift, one of your biggest concerns will be transitioning data. After all, you might have years of data on thousands of patients.

Because EHR systems are not standardized, moving data from one EHR to another is not precise and usually is difficult, Shannon Vogel, the Texas Medical Association’s director of health information technology (HIT), says in the TMA publication, Switching EHR Systems.

Be sure to consult the contract with your existing vendor to understand how it must provide your data.

“While the existing vendor cannot hold your data hostage, it can control the data extraction format and cost,” Ms. Vogel writes. “Even if the contract says that the data come back in a ‘human readable format,’ that doesn’t mean the new EHR can consume all (or any!) of the data in a usable format.”

Once you’ve chosen a new vendor, consider presenting a contract clause on transferability of data from page 5 of the TMA white paper, EHR Buyer Beware: Issues to Consider When Contracting with EHR Vendors.

Also, as a TMA member, you have access to no-cost technology contract reviews from TMA-approved vendor Coker Group. Coker offers a discount to members who use its services to negotiate contract terms.

It’s important to have a candid conversation with the new EHR vendor to determine specifically its experience in working with your existing vendor’s data, Ms. Vogel advises. Find out if the new vendor charges extra for its role in the data transition.

Here are some of your options for dealing with data transition (also called conversion or migration):

  • Hire a company that specializes in data migration. Look for one with experience with your existing EHR.
  • Choose not to migrate your data; instead save an archived, read-only version of your old EHR data (safely stored and backed up).
  • Consider migrating data only for your active patients. For inactive patients, archive the data as a PDF so you maintain access to patient records for periods required by the Texas Medical Board and various payers.
  • If you can’t migrate data for active patients because your old and new systems won’t “talk” to each other, be sure to update their files in the new EHR with all vital data. Then attach a PDF or image of the full record so you always have access to a complete record. Consider bringing in a temporary employee to save a PDF of every record. 

If you have questions or need help with health information technology (HIT) in your practice, contact the TMA HIT helpline at (800) 880-5720 or via email.

Visit the TMA HIT Resource Center to see all of TMA’s HIT tools, resources, and information.

Last Updated On

October 30, 2019

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