Interesting EMR Data Conversion Story

Posted on December 1, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of my readers sent me the following story about an EMR data conversion experience they had just had. I’ve removed the name of the EMR vendor and PMS vendor, because I think this could apply to a lot of the “jabba the hut” EMR vendors out there. Enjoy!

I had an interesting conversation today with one of my clients who is now in the process of migrating to [EMR vendor]. My involvement is to assist in moving the patient demographics into a file that can be imported by [EMR vendor].

So it starts out a week ago with my receiving a spreadsheet naming the fields used by [EMR vendor]. Then the client sends me an augmented version of the spreadsheet saying which fields from their current system are to map to the new fields in [EMR vendor]. I’m fine with this, it just makes my job a little easier since I don’t have to do any guessing. I spend a half hour writing and testing the program, and send a sample test file of 200 patients to the client. I exchange an e-mail with the client and it is agreed we will have a conference call on 11/24.

This brings us to today. First call starts out, not all the people are available on the [EMR vendor] side. (There were scheduling conflicts.) So ten minutes pass while people discuss what time works best for everyone. Instant messages are sent in hopes of snagging other people. New time set for afternoon.

Afternoon comes. All parties are present. Interestingly, the programmer on the [EMR vendor] side seems a little unfamiliar with the field layouts as defined in the spreadsheet sent a week earlier (who knows who sent it). After some discussion on their part, it is not clear whether they are talking version x.4 or x.5. He’ll send an IM to another programmer for clarification. Seems to be some concern about our sending blank/null data for fields that are not being used. Decided it is not the big of a problem. Discussion between client and [EMR vendor] revolves around whether they are talking about [either of the 2 methods this EMR vendor uses]. It is finally decided that more fields are needed in the original spreadsheet. Which field should be used for “race”? Are patient names going to be converted in all upper case or upper/lower? They’ll check with another programmer – that might be a conversion parameter. More background discussion about the “autoflow” phone call scheduled for later that day. Call concludes that a new spreadsheet defining the fields will be sent out.

Observations: This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of time and space that will be required as sites migrate to EMR. It will take lots of TIME – you’ve made this point repeatedly. The bigger the organization, the more features they have in their product, the more people become involved and the more complex the conversion process can become.