Surprise Bill

Data Archiving: The Surprise EMR Bill

KLAS has been aware of the data archiving market for several years and has looked at several different methods for how to measure in this space. Ultimately when I came aboard, they handed it to me and said, “run with this.” Which I've been more than happy to do!

Since then, I’ve been inundated with questions from providers, asking for insights on data archiving. In the last week, I’ve had at least one call per day from a provider asking, “Hey what do you guys know about data archiving and who does it the best?”

To start, it may help to explain what exactly data archiving does: When you’re moving from one EMR to another, part of that process involves moving everything over from your current vendor to your new one. That includes all of your data. All of your patient data, rev cycle data, mammograms, MRI’s - everything.

The EMR vendor typically will respond, “We’re more than happy to move that all into our system, but it’s going to cost you.”

For many organizations already spending extensively to install the new system – that additional cost doesn’t make sense. Many providers feel forced to leave their data archived back on their original vendor’s system. But that can be price prohibitive as well and - not to put too fine a point on the situation - it’s a bit like leaving all your stuff at your ex’s house and hoping they’ll take good care of it.

For example, for providers I’ve spoken have told me some EMR vendors can charge near $10,000 a month to keep an app running after you’ve moved off the system. Alternatively, archiving those apps through a 3rd party data archiving vendor can come in around a tenth of that price. Hence the energy that comes from providers who, having migrated systems, are now looking to cut costs.

What’s involved in data archiving?

First, there’s the actual migration piece, moving your data off the old system onto the vendor’s servers. Then you have the data conversion piece, e.g., converting it out of Cerner or Epic or McKesson’s code into something more generic and easy to store. Finally, the actual archiving.

KLAS breaks data archiving into two methods, static archiving and active arching. From the conversations we’ve had with providers, most want active archiving. When we ask why they explain that, “depending on the state your facility is in, you have to maintain all health information for 10 to 50 years, some states are lower, some states are higher. That’s just for legal regulations.”  

So, for research hospitals and who need to maintain those archives or even if a facility needs to collect on long overdue debts, they often want a vendor who maintains an active -or accessible- archive.

Often, the search for a 3rd party data archivist comes very late in the “we’ve bought a new EMR” discussion. I get calls from providers who feel like they’re in the eleventh hour and are just now learning about the prohibitive costs that their new EMR vendor plans to charge for the service. Often, I hear, “Nate, we need this data right now. We have like 3 weeks before we can make a decision."

That sense of urgency, combined with the fact that most organizations don’t have deep experience in EMR swaps means that providers often don’t even know what questions they should be asking about this space. They know they need a legacy data archivist, but they don’t know who the vendors are or even where to start looking.

KLAS wants to create a framework for this space, one that defines the expectations for providers and differentiates which vendors best help healthcare organizations save money. Additionally, we want to identify the best paths for large and small hospitals to follow, as their needs in this space differ greatly.

Right now, we have a soft publish date set for the end of this year, but we’ll be sure to keep the industry updated as the year moves on.