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EHR Replacement Requires Plan for Legacy Patient Data

The sheer volume of healthcare data—the fastest growing segment of data today—makes decisions about the retention and transition of legacy patient data a critical consideration for healthcare organizations considering an Electronic Health Records (EHR) replacement. Legacy EHR systems have built significant stores of valuable patient information. However, they often lack integration with new systems or modern security requirements. To ensure compliance and cost-effectiveness, healthcare organizations must develop a comprehensive plan to address their legacy EHR data before beginning any system replacement project.

Unsurprisingly, EHR replacement comes with a lot of planning and forethought. This article will explore why EHR replacement requires a plan for legacy patient data specifically. It will also cover the many considerations for this vital data during EHR replacement to ensure a successful transition.

EHR Replacement: The Basics

Before exploring the considerations for legacy patient data, it is important to review the basics of EHR replacement.

An electronic health record (EHR) can be replaced when a practice or hospital decides it no longer meets its needs. The new system should be chosen through an extensive selection process that considers various factors and reviews multiple vendors. 

Further, an audit of the legacy systems must occur to capture the data stored in them accurately. This ensures it is preserved and can be used in the new system. It also protects against any potential legal liabilities associated with data retention if it does not meet state and federal compliance requirements.

These include:

  • HIPAA requirements
  • State-specific regulations
  • Other related policies

Legacy Patient Data

Legacy patient data refers to information from existing patients that must be transferred over to the new EHR system before the go-live date. This includes medical records and any associated financial records or other documents related to those patients’ care. All of this information must be transferred over accurately and promptly to ensure continuity of care for those patients. Not to mention, it can benefit the organization in the long run as it helps keep track of patient outcomes, costs, and more.

Healthcare organizations should consider various factors (such as cost and compliance) when transferring legacy patient data. This creates an efficient transition with minimal disruption, and any necessary updates are made to stay up-to-date with industry standards. Additionally, additional resources may need to be allocated for analyzing the legacy EHR system before attempting any transfer of data.

We’ll discuss these considerations next.

Transferring Legacy Patient Data for EHR Replacement

The most crucial step for legacy patient data is ensuring it’s correctly transferred into the new system. This could include manual or automated transfer methods. The method often depends on the amount of data being transferred and any other special needs associated with it.

Common transfer methods include:

  • Exporting from one system to another
  • Direct transfers between two systems
  • Third-party conversion services

Additionally, any necessary paper documents should be scanned and stored digitally in the new system to maintain a complete patient history record.

Finally, if there are any discrepancies between the old and new systems, organizations must identify and resolve these issues before the go-live date. 

Retention requirements

Another key consideration for legacy patient data during EHR replacement is understanding any relevant retention requirements. 

For example, depending on the state, there may be specific regulations regarding how long organizations must keep certain information on file. These requirements also cover what processes should be in place for storage and destruction. To remain compliant, any healthcare organization replacing its EHR system must understand these requirements.

Partnering with health data management services proves incredibly useful for this reason, as many companies, including Two Point, have HIPAA compliance officers on staff to help you move forward and remain compliant.

Additionally, AHIMA outlines the bare minimum for records retention schedules that are essential for healthcare organizations to review:

  • “Ensure patient health information is available to meet the needs of continued patient care, legal requirements, research, education, and other legitimate uses of the organization.
  • Include guidelines that specify what information is kept, the time period for which it is kept, and the storage medium on which it will be maintained (e.g., paper, microfilm, optical disk, magnetic tape)
  • Include clear destruction policies and procedures that include appropriate methods of destruction for each medium on which information is maintained.”

In most cases, retaining records for a minimum of five years is the bare minimum—but at least ten years is ideal.

State-specific data retention requirements

For example, some of the state-specific data retention requirements for 2023, as outlined by the HIPAA Journal, include the following:

  • Medical records for adults in Arkansas must be kept for ten years following their discharge from the hospital. Simultaneously, data related to the master patient index should remain maintained indefinitely.
  • Doctors have to keep evaluations, diagnoses, prognoses, laboratory reports, or biopsies slide in patient records for ten years from their creation in Georgia.
  • Healthcare providers in Nevada must maintain medical records for at least five years. In the case of minors, their records must be maintained until the patient is 23.

Luckily, there are cost-effective options for storing legacy patient data that can make these unique requirements an achievable goal.

Cost-effective Solutions

Replacing an EHR system can be costly. This is especially true when factoring in the time and money associated with transferring legacy patient data. In addition, considering the sheer volume of healthcare data many organizations possess, it can be difficult to find cost-effective long-term solutions to store that information. However, as previously mentioned, there are cost-effective solutions for storing this information that make it more manageable.

For example, healthcare data archival services provide a secure and efficient platform to store documents, and other digital records that authorized staff members can easily access. Additionally, healthcare data archival services like the ones provided by Two Point can ensure compliance with state laws. At the same time, providing archiving capabilities, so all information is securely stored without taking up extra storage space onsite.

Learn more about how health data archiving reduces costs in this blog post.


EHR replacement requires careful planning and consideration to result in a successful transition and continuity of care for patients. For this to happen, legacy patient data must be addressed, including properly transferring the information into the new system, understanding any relevant retention requirements, and looking for cost-effective solutions throughout the process.

Contact Two Point today if your organization is eager to explore these options. We will help make its legacy data migration or archival process as seamless as possible. With the right provider on your team, you can get a better picture of what needs to be done to remain compliant while properly transferring all necessary information.

Ultimately, this will allow your healthcare organization to embark on its EHR replacement journey confidently.

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