Data Migration in Healthcare: Tools, Challenges, and Stages

04 Dec 2023

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Healthcare is an industry that requires an elevated level of data accuracy and security. Here, a proper data migration approach may become an instrument to safeguard sensitive medical information firmly. This may result in the reduction of incomplete, damaged, or improper data, leading to tangible improvements in patient experience and overall enterprise success.

So, what valuable insights you’ll find in this article? You’ll focus on the essence of data migration in healthcare, the reasons, tools, challenges associated with it, and discover best practices to conduct successful data migration.

What Is Healthcare Data Migration

Data migration in healthcare is a process of relocating patient information and other medical data from one health system to another. Such migrations becomes a necessity when the health establishment has to abandon its legacy system that lacks the capacity to cover evolving business needs.

Finding the correct healthcare data migration solutions is vital to ensure the secure, accurate, and timely transition of patient records, aligning with needed data clarity and integrity. Moreover, proper data transfer is a proven way to enhance the quality of patient care, contributing to more precise diagnosing and treatment plan composition.

Reasons for Clinical Data Migration

Healthcare organizations more often decide to incorporate patient data migration operations into their habitual workflows. This is done to achieve more flexibility of actions and enrich their activity with scalability. Below, you will acknowledge the most widespread reasons for medical data migration.

EHR system upgrades

To stay up-to-date in the healthcare industry, it’s crucial to periodically upgrade the Electronic Health Records(EHR) software in use or completely switch to a brand-new solution. This is critical for providing modern healthcare services by improving EHR’s functionality and data administration. At this point, one of the key aspects is to transfer medical data with no damage or losses.

Let’s see how exactly proper data migration assists in a smooth transition to a new EHR software:

  • Newly implemented functionality. Fresh EHRs often come with new features and updated interfaces that often give a great scope of benefits for healthcare providers. Data migration allows them to engage new functionality in full, avoiding underutilization and lost effectiveness opportunities.
  • Interoperability. Healthcare data migration is a primary element of new EHR integration with other medical solutions and technologies (e.g., Laboratory Information Systems, telehealth platforms, IoT devices, etc.). By achieving the integrity of all digital components of your healthcare ecosystem, you’ll reach a seamless communication and data exchange
  • Data standardization and cleansing. Numerous medical data transition tools can simply deal with several tasks at once: data standardization by formats required for the transition to the new system, data deduplication, and cleansing from outdated or damaged pieces.

Wondering about how to build an EHR? Discover essential feature set and cost in our full guide

Need for data consolidation

Multiple healthcare systems consolidation is often implied by the merging of healthcare organizations. This often requires gathering patient-related data into one unified database. Medical data migration engages multiple algorithms, helping healthcare establishments maintain the continuity of high-quality care.

Such algorithms include:

  • Data mapping algorithms. This involves the creation of correspondence between data source and destination, ensuring smooth transition and accurate translation of data by matching data fields.
  • Data validation algorithms. Such algorithms ensure data accuracy by identifying possible discrepancies or missing information in a timely manner before the whole migrating process is completed.
  • Encryption algorithms. In patient data migration, encryption appears as a security guarantor. This helps address data safety concerns during transit, robustly safeguarding sensitive medical information.
  • Fuzzy matching algorithms: Fuzzy matching algorithms allow medical specialists to distinguish similar but not identical data to handle variations in names, surnames, addresses, and other demographics-related information.
  • Machine learning algorithms. Machine Learning in healthcare is applied for analyzing large datasets. The technology may be useful for predictive modeling, data classification, or Natural Language Processing (NPL) to extract essential information from previously unstructured medical notes.

Cloud storage adoption

A prevalent utilization of cloud computing in healthcare is implied by increased scalability and cost-reduction perspective. Clinical data migration is an accuracy-demanding process, engaging giant data volumes. Cloud storage enables healthcare providers to scale their storage infrastructure, depending on their current needs. Moreover, such an approach brings more maneuverability, as medical organizations don’t have to invest in bulky hardware yet maintain it.

Cloud storage providers often offer robust data backup and redundancy solutions. During medical data migration, cloud-based backups become a powerful tool to ensure patient-related data is safe and highly accessible.

Data security strengthening

Healthcare data security remains one of the primary concerns. Due to the sensitive nature of medical information, it’s vital to ensure the highest level of protection, preventing data breaches and unauthorized access and minimizing vulnerabilities.

Data migration itself appears as a robust method of security enhancement. For example, if you decide to migrate away from your legacy telehealth software, you’ll be capable of minimizing security risks associated with vulnerabilities that exist in older systems. Apart from this, the migration process allows you to reassess and enhance security measures by implementing advanced encryption protocols, improving access controls, etc.

Lack of current system capacity

Many healthcare organizations turn to data migration practices. When their current healthcare system lacks capacity, data migration becomes necessary to accommodate increasing data volumes and meet the growing demands of internal operations. The research claims that the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of medical data volumes will reach around 36%, bypassing other sectors.

Such enormous volumes must be properly stored and, over time, relocated to more secure storage. The migration helps to facilitate the transition to a system with greater capacity, enabling improved data management and ensuring continuity of patient care in the healthcare environment.

Verify Tools for Clinical Data Migration

You may be questioned about what health data migration tools to choose to speed up and clarify this process. Let’s see the most commonly used tools that may be useful during your migration journey.

Mirth Connect

Mirth Connect is one of the leading tools for medical data migration presented by Next Gen Healthcare. This is an open-source integration engine that is used not only for data migration but also to enhance interoperability across different software platforms and for data integration. Here are the key capabilities this platform offers:

  • HL7 Messaging. Mirth Connect is greatly suited for the HL7 (Health Level Seven) messaging format, which is crucial in the healthcare industry to facilitate the seamless exchange of medical information among different healthcare systems. This also allows the translation of migrated data directly into Hl7 format, making the process easier and enriching data with value.
  • Custom data transformation. During data transition, you’ll face a constant need to fit the data into the demands, formats, and structure of destination software. Mirth Connect allows its users to accomplish custom transformation scripts themselves using JavaSript.
  • Routing and filtering. Mirth Connect offers a feature that helps to route and filter data based on previously specified criteria. During data migration, this is essential, as you’ll easily acknowledge that only relevant data is transferred and then sent to the correct destination.

Redox

Even though Redox is not exclusively focused on patient data migration, it’s still often applied for this purpose, too. Generally, the software is designed to simplify data exchange between multiple medical digital channels and enhance interoperability. Such properties are for sure reflected in the data transition process. Let’s see what unique features this platform presents:

  • Data transformation toolkit. Redox’s toolkit helps streamline data mapping and transformation, allowing organizations to correct data formats on their own using comprehensive user guides.
  • Cloud-based infrastructure. Redox operates data infrastructure, allowing healthcare organizations to handle large data volumes during migration, offering flexibility and high scalability.
  • Health system network. This platform unites a wide range of hospitals, clinics, and vendors. Such a well-managed networking practice simplifies connectivity and enables wider data access while migrating health data among different healthcare organizations.

Iguana

Iguana, a product presented by INTERFACEWARE platform, is a powerful integration tool that is widely utilized in healthcare. Like previous market leaders, Iguana also operates a wide range of data-oriented operations, and it is also perfectly suited for medical data migration. What interesting can Iguana offer? Let’s find out below:

  • Real-time data exchange: Iguana supports real-time data exchange that enables immediate data transfer between systems. This will help you if you need to conduct data transit quickly, acknowledging all updates and new masses of generated data.
  • Monitoring tools and dashboard. With this feature, you’ll be capable of monitoring the success level of your data migration project. Moreover, you’ll obtain the ability to troubleshoot all arising complexities and define data transition bottlenecks in advance.
  • Pre-built adapter. Pre-built adapter feature significantly simplifies the data migration process, as it provides users with ready-made connectors for various medical systems, databases, and devices. This functionality facilitates enhanced and efficient connectivity that accelerates and streamlines healthcare data migration.

Trust us for your medical data migration

With 11+ years of software development experience in the Healthcare, Cleveroad team is ready to provide you with expert assistance in seamless health data transition

Leading Practices for Medical Data Migration

Data migration in healthcare requires the preparation and composition of a strong strategy to follow to achieve a seamless transition with minimum disruptions. Below, you’ll discover a short list of things that have to be done before and after the full-scale migration

Revise current data environment

If you understand your current data landscape, it’ll be much easier for you to prevent major risks and minimize the appearance of new ones in the future. Here are several criteria you can include in your assessment process:

  • Definition of common data patterns, types, utilized formats, data sources, etc.
  • Extraction of commonly spotted data disruptions, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies that have to be addressed before health data migration
  • Analysis of data standards and protocols in the existing data landscape to include necessary transformations to align with the destination systems
  • Understanding data volumes and complexity, as huge data volumes will require different migrations approaches rather than small ones
  • Ensure that your data migration project aligns with needed healthcare regulations. Include security, privacy, and essential regulatory requirements
  • Cost assessment is vital to allocate resources properly, minimizing the possibility of budget overruns.

Define data migration goals

To make healthcare data migration successful, it’s vital to obtain a solid understanding of why you need this. In the future perspective, this will help you highlight tangible metrics (data accuracy rate, migration timelines adherence, etc.) to measure transition success and consequently represent how well you managed to satisfy your demands.

Your potential data migration goals may include:

  • Achieving data completeness and consistency
  • Ensuring data integrity
  • Facilitating scalability and future perspective focus
  • Strengthening of data safeguarding
  • Assuring data consolidation, etc.

Select an experienced tech vendor

The tech partner you’ll decide to cooperate with is an influential part of the successful patient data migration. Vendors with no relevant experience or Healthcare domain knowledge may not fully accomplish your tech demands and may experience difficulties regarding industry-related regulation specifications.

To avoid misunderstandings and find your exact professionals, pay attention to the following criteria:

  • Check out platforms like Clutch, where you can examine the company's previous client feedback about cooperation, vendor’s alignment with deadlines, and their communication approaches
  • Find out if your potential partner has proven experience in software product delivery for the healthcare domain
  • Choose an IT provider that can offer fresh and prominent approaches to data migration and other solutions development
  • Request their portfolio with examples of previously delivered software projects

Why trust Cleveroad in healthcare software development? Check out our recent case on how we built IoT-based system for monitoring EKG

Choose data migration tools

It’s easy to get lost among all the clinical data migration tools offered on the market. For sure, it’s vital to choose technologies that are easy to use and comprehend, but one of the best practices for health data migration includes focusing on tools that:

  • Support data standards relevant to your organization (HL7, FHIR), etc.
  • Facilitate interoperability among various healthcare systems such as EHRs
  • Provides strong scalability and data capacity capabilities
  • Have strong medical data security standards and safeguarding approaches like encryption, strong data security protocols, and comply with data security regulations
  • Easy to integrate into existing healthcare IT infrastructure
  • Offers a wide range of customization capabilities and is flexible enough to meet your business’s unique needs

Properly prepare data

This practice may significantly save you time during large-scale health data migration. During data preparation, determine existing data formats and types as well as assess their completeness, accuracy, and quality.

Also, decide on a data migration strategy: is it going to be parallel migration, phased, or a combination of both? Ensuring that the chosen approach aligns with your organization's goals is vital. This will enable you to minimize possible disruptions in the future.

Lastly, in even the most flawless scenario, something might suddenly go wrong. To prevent major data migration fails, implement robust data backups and disaster recovery plans to round out rough corners in case of any discrepancies.

Ensure compliance with industry standards

Healthcare is an industry that is sensitive to the context of industry-related regulations. adherence to them may facilitate the strong security of patient-related data, helping you build a solid industry reputation and client loyalty.

Here are the examples of regulations and healthcare data standards in different regions:

  • HIPAA, HITECH - United States
  • GDPR, eHealth Action Plan - European Union
  • PHIPA, PIPEDA- Canada
  • NHS Digital Standards, Data Protection Act 2018 - United Kingdom
  • My Health Records Act, Australian Digital Health Agency Standards - Australia
  • Protection of Personal Information Act - South Africa

Implement strong security measures

It is pivotal to safeguard data strongly and this aspect plays a great role in the smooth data migration process. Well-selected security measures not only preserve data integrity but guarantee a level of privacy and confidentiality. The most reliable and popular data security measures include:

  • PHI (Protected Health Information) encompasses individually identifiable health data protected under HIPAA.
  • Data encryption convertion of data, making it inaccessible without the decryption key
  • Access controls implies restricting system or data accessibility to authorized individuals
  • Data residency and retention is a method that ensures that data is kept where legally required and information is retained for specified periods, aligning with regulations

Monitor data migration process

The healthcare data migration stage requires a systematic transferring of patient records and other relevant data types from the source system to the destination system. It includes extracting, transforming, and loading the data. Don’t forget to conduct verification checks to ensure accuracy and data consistency during the transition. Error handling processes address potential issues, requiring staged planning of the whole process for a successful transition.

Simultaneously, the monitoring stage oversees the migration in real time. Engage monitoring tools, track progress, and assess data transfer rates. Such tools may include:

  • SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer - Monitors database performance during the migration
  • Dynatrace - Offers end-to-end monitoring for infrastructure
  • Splunk - Great tool for data migration monitoring and troubleshooting
  • Data dog - Cloud infrastructure and app monitoring

There are many more effective tools that you’ll have to choose based on your unique requirements. Nevertheless, ensure performance metrics meet expectations.

Security monitoring will give you a chance to conduct a secure transfer of data, including user access oversight and alerts for unexpected and unwanted access. The monitoring phase is dynamic and will require regular updates on the migration's progress and issue resolution.

Challenges of Data Migration in Healthcare

Unsurprisingly, patient data migration requires a lot of attention and effort. Below, we’ve prepared a list of 4 of the most common challenges healthcare establishments face during data transition.

Data integrity and accuracy

The key complexity when it comes to data accuracy and completeness usually lies in huge data volumes. Different data structures, formats, or standards between the home and destination systems can lead to disruptions, requiring precise data mapping strategies. At the same time, Inaccurate mapping or transformation can result in patient records being misaligned, missing, or misrepresented in the destination system

Cleveroad expert tip: To minimize the possibility of migration collapses, keep internal data clean and keep up with robust mapping strategies. Moreover, implement reliable error-handling mechanisms to identify and resolve discrepancies promptly.

Standardization and interoperability

Another tangible complexity healthcare organizations face during medical data migration hides in standardization and interoperability. The absence of periodicity in formats and data structures significantly complicates the mapping during migration.

Cleveroad expert tip: To overcome this challenge, implement communication standards and foster collaboration among healthcare providers for a cohesive ecosystem. In Cleveroad we apply data standards like HL7 or FHIR that can help you ensure unified data representation across systems.

Lack of tech expertise

Technical complexity is another data migration challenge. It requires robust technical expertise to ensure transferred data safety and the whole migration success. Usually, it’s much harder to find specialists with tech proficiency in the Healthcare domain for adequate costs. IT experts from your or nearby countries may lack skills that are essential for your exact project.

Cleveroad expert tip: You can turn to an outsourced IT provider that offers healthcare software development services. This approach will allow you to access a wide talent pool worldwide and find unique, narrow expertise as needed. Moreover, it’ll give you an opportunity to select a tech provider that matches your budget and timeline requirements.

Discover how your business will benefit from outsourcing healthcare software development in our expert guide

Regulatory compliance

Industry-related compliance during medical data migration remains a critical concern. The challenge hides in both the seamless incorporation of essential measures without disrupting data flow and maintaining compliance with evolving privacy laws. At the same time, not adhering to specific standards (e.g. HIPAA, GDPR, HL7, etc.) may result in disruptions of clinical data migration and the whole healthcare activity.

Cleveroad expert tip: Precisely examine current standards that are relevant in your region (e.g. HITECH and HIPAA - the US, GDPR - the UK, etc.) and strictly align with them during health data migration. This will enable you to create a strong balance between the regulation relevance and data completeness during a seamless transition process.

Data security

Generally, data security is a main priority in the healthcare industry. During medical data migration, it may be hard to achieve a high level of data security due to potential interoperability issues, access control adjustments, different risks during data transmission, and human errors.

Cleveroad expert tip: To address security issues during data security, implement robust security measures such as data encryption, access control, etc. Moreover, conduct thorough risk assessments to detect vulnerabilities and mitigate possible risks.

Cleveroad Experience in Healthcare Data Migration

As a proficient healthcare IT services provider, we bring extensive experience to medical data migration. To prove it, we’d like to present you with our recent medical project - Clinic management system with EMR for rehab services provider.

One of the tech challenges set to the Cleveroad team was to ensure safe and accurate patient data migration from the SaaS EMR system to a newly built platform. It was also required to ensure the system’s compliance with HIPAA requirements. Our specialists transferred the existing user data from an outdated, lacking capacity system to the new custom platform's database. Additionally, we streamed our industry competency and standards knowledge to develop bespoke compliance-based software in adherence to US laws and regulations on personal data protection based on HIPAA laws.

As a result, patient data migration passed securely and successfully, with strict alignment with industry requirements. The platform now meets HIPAA and data security requirements for US-based clinics, reducing legal risks for the customer.

Clinic management systemg developed by Cleveroad

Clinic management systemg developed by Cleveroad

Now, we'd like to tell you more about Cleveroad and provide you with more details about our activity and healthcare software development services we offer.

Cleveroad is an outsourcing healthcare software development company with 11+ years of experience building digital solutions for medical enterprises, clinics, and other healthcare organizations. We have a huge worldwide client base that includes healthcare organizations from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Singapore, Nordic Regions, etc.

Cooperation with us may serve you with several benefits:

  • Custom healthcare software development. We precisely examine specific aspects of your unique business model, and as a result, you receive a tailor-made solution that will meet your needs and complement your business objectives.
  • On-demand IT-services. Receive a wide range of modernization and enhancement for your medical business by applying to tech services on-demand: legacy software modernization, industry IT strategy consulting, cloud app development, etc.
  • Regulation-compliant software development. Our software engineers have hands-on expertise in delivering healthcare and telehealth solutions compliant with various industry regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, PIPEDA, Hl7, etc. Additionally, we ensure full protection for health-related information, paying attention to access control and proper data storage and transmission.
  • Cooperation with an ISO-certified partner. Our company received certifications for ISO 27001:2013 (security) and ISO 9001:2015 (quality) Standards, meaning that our healthcare software development activity meets best practices of international information security management standards and shows our ability to maintain consistent quality of healthcare software development services.

Get robust medical data migration assistance

Contact us. Our healthcare software engineers will review your IT infrastructure and systems and assist you in healthcare data migration, avoiding incompleteness and inaccuracy

Frequently Asked Questions
What is clinical data migration?

Data migration in healthcare is a process of relocating patient-related information and other medical data from one health system to another. Such migrations often become a necessity when the health establishment needs to abandon its legacy system that lacks the capacity to cover evolving business needs.

What is healthcare data migration?

Healthcare data migration is an important step in seeking to enhance the connectivity and interoperability of existing medical systems. Here are more reasons why health organizations decide to conduct data migration:

  • EHR systems upgrades
  • Need for data consolidation
  • Cloud storage adoption
  • Data security strengthening
What is the data migration process?

Healthcare data migration is a multi-layered process that typically includes the following practices:

  • Existing data environment assessment
  • Definition of data migration goals
  • Experienced tech vendor selection
  • Choice of data migration tools
  • Data preparation
  • Compliance with security and privacy requirements
  • Migration and annoying monitoring
What are the challenges of medical data migration?

The most common challenges associated with medical data migration may include data integrity and accuracy accomplishment, data standardization and interoperability, Lack of tech expertise, and privacy and data security concerns.

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About author

Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics

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