Demystifying Data Migrations

March 13, 2019

Key considerations for growing behavioral health practices

As private behavioral health practices grow over time, they will eventually find themselves evaluating more robust technology solutions that can support their expanding case volumes. One of the most daunting aspects of taking on a new technology solution as a health care provider is the question of migrating patient data.

This can be partially attributed to the general lack of standardization in process and procedure industry wide. For most providers, the experience of departing from an older technology solution and implementing a new one is going to vary wildly depending on the vendors involved, hosting any number of unforeseen costs or delays. Practice managers that have made the transition before are likely to recall unexpected difficulties, and if asked, probably aren’t in a hurry to do it all over again.

Growth and change are inevitable in any form of business. As tempting as it might be to simply stick with “the devil you know,” given the unique challenges of data migration, stepping up to a technology solution that can adequately support practice growth is the best way to ensure long-term success. Having an idea of what to expect during a data migration will help practices to plan and budget for an easier transition, which can be broken down into the following three considerations.

Departing the older solution
Some EHR solutions provide the tools for extracting one’s own data. This is often a best-case scenario for practices, as it provides them the opportunity to plan and budget around their own timelines and urgency.

If such functionality is not available, a data export may involve submitting a ticket to the vendor’s technical support department and observing a nominal turnaround time. Practices that need to pull additional data beyond patient demographics (such as patient history or any other documentation) should count on seeing that reflected in the timeliness of the export. While many vendors provide these services at no additional charge, some do not. This can feel like the data is being held hostage, but vendors regard it as time and effort that must be covered somehow. In either scenario, practice managers should budget for the costs incurred during the export process, whether in terms of vendor fees or the indirect cost of lost time.

Implementing a new solution
It is often during an import process when the non-standardized qualities of raw data become the most obvious. EHR data is going to vary in terms of taxonomy and relevance from vendor to vendor, and it is often up to the practice to groom its own data in accordance with the incoming vendor’s systems. The good news is that, by and large, vendors are happy to provide assistance through the import process as part of the practice’s implementation of the new solution. Nevertheless, it will represent a significant effort on the practice’s part, so practice managers should be prepared to set aside the time.

Getting information upfront
Surprises aren’t normally a good thing in business, and practices run into the most trouble when they encounter them. Before signing on with a new vendor, it’s important to get as much information about the data migration process as possible. What does the export process look like? Are there fees involved? How long does everything usually take? Learn everything there is to learn up front, budget the practice’s time and resources appropriately, and don’t get caught off guard by hidden fees or unforeseen transition delays.

Knowing what to expect during a data migration will help practices prepare for any problems. Practice managers that take a full account for what might be involved will be more adequately prepared to move forward with a more suitable technology solution.

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Last Updated: March 12, 2019