Converting Data from Old EMR to New EMR

Posted on August 20, 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.

There was a lot of interesting response to my article on replacing an EMR. I actually got an email response that I believe is a really interesting read about one EMR vendors take on the challenges of converting the data from an old EMR to a new EMR. Here’s the email response (with old EMR vendor name removed since it could have been any EMR):

Interesting article. This is where I live each and every day.

Most recently, I’ve switched a client from [current EMR Vendor] to our product Red Planet. The price tag on upgrading [current EMR Vendor] was too prohibitive and they were already familiar with us since we were doing the PMS. So, we already had a foot in the door.

There were two challenges: 1) Converting the data. 2) Converting the culture.

The data was not easily accessible, even through it was SQL based. It was just hand-to-hand combat learning where/how the data was stored and then extracting. The real issue is that you don’t know that you got all of it. You bring up a visit on the new system, and it looks complete until you read some of the fine detail and discover it dropped the last 1/5 of a sentence. I’d scratch my head, go back and do extensive research, find the culprit, run another conversion and we would inch forward. This was extended over a 6 month period. It isn’t like converting a PMS where you know the receivables is X dollars and you can balance to the penny. There is no equivalent “penny” in the EMR and no one has the time to look at every nook and cranny of every note, shot record, lab result, image, or order. So when it looks close, you go for it.

An EMR imposes a culture on an organization. The staff, for instance, would continually ask me how they “suspend” a note so someone else could work on it. “Well, in Red Planet, we don’t do a suspend. There is no need,” would be my response. They would shake their heads, and try to wrap their minds around this new concept. I would watch them do things on their old system that I thought were tedious, non-intuitive, and very prone to error. I would then show them things in Red Planet and they would say to me it was tedious, non-intuitive, and very prone to error.

Now, when they were right about something being cumbersome, I at least have the ability to re-tool a process or function. In the end I’ve been able to capitalize on the things that were good from [their old EMR Vendor] and enhanced our product. I’m a fanatic for speed and accuracy, so being superior to what they had is an obsession.