End users’ input is critical to successful data migration efforts

Reliant Medical Group achieved buy-in from its clinicians in a shift to a new EHR, ensuring key patient data could be accessed.

Shifting data from one EHR to another requires active participation from the clinicians who will use the information, Reliant Medical Group found.

Data migration – the very idea seems to convey an impression that techies are laboring in a back office, performing mysterious incantations over rows of code to move information from one system to another.

That’s not how it happens, at least in the experience of Reliant Medical Group, which did a massive migration to its new electronic health records system.

With the help of vendor Galen Healthcare Solutions, Reliant Medical Group completed an enormous data migration project, moving 150 million pieces of data of 65 data types into its new EHR and winning several industry awards.

Those involved in the project contended that involving end users — from the planning stages to after go-live — is integral to a massive data conversion.

An HDM KLASroom presentation on governance over data conversion revealed success principles from Larry Garber, MD, medical director of informatics and associate medical director of research at Reliant Medical Group, and August Borie, a principal technical consultant at Galen Healthcare Solutions, which provided the technical support.

Keys to success

“The most successful data-migration projects that we assist organizations with are the ones where they have engaged that physician and clinician input early in the project and have a well-defined scope of the project,” Borie said.

“We’d migrated 21 data types initially but ended up doing 65. One reason was because of the clinician expectations,” added Garber. “They wanted to know everything.”

Borie and Garber have seen, firsthand, the phenomenal amount of work required in a data conversion project. They understand the concerns that clinicians often feel about such large-scale changes and the importance of getting all stakeholders on board.

“If I'm trying to convince somebody to support something that they don't necessarily want, I need to make sure that I've achieved what I call the three pillars of success,” Garber said. “You have to show that it will be useful, show that it will be usable, and you have to develop trust with the stakeholders.”

“It’s important to instill that level of confidence in your data migration — that the data is going to be accurate,” agreed Borie. “Saying, ‘Here's how we're going to handle all of these different scenarios in this new system,’ really goes a long way for end-user satisfaction.”

The devil in the details

Garber described Reliant Medical Group’s efforts to ensure and validate data accuracy, such as archiving audit trails, indexing and labeling the data and planning how to fix inevitable mapping errors.

In achieving this level of detail, Borie re-emphasized the importance of validating the data and letting clinicians help.

“When we're helping organizations migrate data, the majority of the entire timeline of the project is validation. We want, we need, to make sure that data is accurate, complete, and actionable,” Borie said. “Think about the folks that are familiar with lab data or clinical documentation – have those folks be involved in the migration project and validating that data instead of just having IT look at it.”

Clinicians can even provide a primary measurement of a data-migration project’s success. Reliant tracked their clinicians’ productivity levels in the weeks before, during and after the new EHR’s go-live date – the results showed only a small decrease immediately after go-live and that the clinicians achieved new highs in productivity only weeks later.

“The fact that we had essentially no drop in productivity or workload — that we got all the usability and that people could see patients and keep moving — was a sign that we had done a successful migration,” Garber said.

The ultimate aim of data migration is to benefit healthcare providers and patients. Garber noted that easy access to the essential data enables him and his fellow physicians to be the doctors they want to be.

“I'm an internist, and when I see my patients, I constantly know more about my patients than they will remember about themselves. That is the way to practice medicine,” Garber concluded.

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