Data Conversion a Hurdle in EHR Switch

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  — you may have years of data on thousands of patients — from the old EHR to the new one. Because EHR systems are not standardized, the ability to move data from one EHR to another is not precise and usually is difficult, Shannon Vogel, TMA’s director for health information technology (HIT), says in her new publication, Switching EHR Systems.

Be sure to consult your 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, you should have a candid conversation about that vendor’s experience in working specifically 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.
  • Elect not to migrate your data but save an archived, read-only version of your old EHRdata (safely stored and backed up).
  • Consider migrating data for only 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 the patient’s file 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.

Switching EHR Systems is available in the TMA Education Center along with other TMA continuing medical education courses related to EHRs. For more information and tools, visit TMA’s Electronic Health Record Resource Center.

If you have questions or need help with health information technology in your practice, contact the TMA HIT helpline at (800) 880-5720 or hit[at]texmed[dot]org. Visit to see all of TMA’s HIT tools, resources, and information.

Published Nov. 28, 2017

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Last Updated On

April 19, 2018

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