Healthcare Legacy Systems: The Essence, Impact on Your Workflow, and More

18 Dec 2023

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Today's medical facilities often face the problems connected to legacy systems – outdated solutions or technologies persisting within the industry. Many healthcare organizations still use these systems. However, solving such problems is critical for patient service enhancement and boosting hospitals and clinics performance.

Being aware of this issue as a skilled healthcare software development provider, we have gathered all the ins and outs of legacy systems in healthcare here in this article. You will also consider challenges and benefits of replacing legacy systems, as well as tips of software management.

What Is a Legacy System in Healthcare?

A legacy system in healthcare is a software component for medical facilities characterized by limited interoperability with other medical solutions, security concerns, costly maintenance, and influence on the overall workflow effectiveness. It is no longer supported or updated due to technological advancements or neglect.

Legacy systems in healthcare can also be defined as ones using outdated operating systems (such as Linux, Unix, etc.) or hardware platforms (e.g. servers, networking equipment), or developed with the help of outdated programming languages. As a consequence, they also have integration problems with more modern healthcare systems, issues with patient data safety, as well as being noncompliant to the newest healthcare standards.

A medtech system often gets "legacy status" for the following reasons:

  • The vendor has discontinued maintenance of the used healthcare software technology
  • The supplier doesn’t offer cybersecurity updates for the utilized medical system for potential issues.
  • The expansion of health technology has reached its limit.
  • The technology provider has discontinued the product, leading to the existence of an end-of-life legacy medical system.

Healthcare organizations that didn’t migrate from legacy medical systems and keep maintaining them, should know it leads to inefficiencies within the workflows. Companies may need to hire specialized staff to operate outdated healthcare software, duly protect health records or manage multiple health systems that perform similar functions. Additionally, healthcare legacy systems expose organizations to significant security risks.

Challenges of Legacy Systems in Healthcare

A legacy system in the healthcare industry can impact operational efficiency and patient care quality, potentially leading to negative outcomes. This may present various challenges connected to legacy data, and we described the common ones below.

Challenges of legacy healthcare systems

Challenges of legacy healthcare systems

Cybersecurity issues

Legacy healthcare systems pose significant cybersecurity risks due to their outdated technology and lack of security features. These systems were created without the necessary hardware and software mechanisms to protect against modern cyber threats. As a result, due to patient confidentiality breaches, data loss or corruption and unauthorized access to medical records, the medical facilities may suffer from legal consequences, damage to the reputation of healthcare providers, and patient trust erosion, ultimately affecting the quality of healthcare.

If you decide to upgrade your legacy healthcare system, you can find out that the cybersecurity issue will effectively be solved with the help of modernization. In particular, the new system will be created regarding the newest standards of encryption as well as the robust security measures (like multifactor authentication, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), data backups and disaster recovery, etc.).

High maintenance costs

The costs associated with the frequent fixing of the old system, updates, and hiring specialized personnel to manage obsolete technologies divert resources that could otherwise be allocated to improving patient care. These financial constraints may result in delayed adoption of more modern and efficient healthcare solutions, impeding the organization's ability to streamline workflows, enhance operational efficiency, and invest in critical areas such as staff training or patient-centric initiatives. In turn, this can lead to suboptimal resource allocation, potentially compromising the overall quality and effectiveness of healthcare services provided to patients.

Modernizing the legacy healthcare system within the legacy software modernization services offers a strategic solution to the challenge of costly maintenance. In some cases, it can be more cost-efficient to update the healthcare legacy software infrastructure rather than supporting the existing one. In turn, modernized systems are designed to be more adaptable, scalable, and compatible with evolving technological standards, ultimately reducing the burden of ongoing maintenance costs.

Limited flexibility

The rigid architecture of healthcare legacy software infrastructure poses a significant challenge when it comes to scaling up to accommodate growing patient populations or adapting to evolving medical standards. This limitation in scalability and flexibility hampers the integration of new technologies, such as telemedicine or advanced diagnostic tools, into existing systems. Consequently, healthcare organizations find it challenging to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of medical innovations, impacting their ability to provide state-of-the-art care and limiting options for patients seeking the latest advancements in medical treatment.

In order to solve this issue, you can discuss it with a healthcare IT provider. For instance, you can book a consultation with Cleveroad Healthcare Solution Architect to discuss all the challenges connected to the architecture choice for a solution you need to modernize. Our expert will help you make your choice according to your business needs and requirements.

Meeting interoperability requirements

Interoperability is crucial for sharing patient information among healthcare stakeholders like hospitals, clinics, laboratories. Legacy systems often face obstacles in achieving seamless interoperability due to being developed in silos and without standardized communication protocols. The lack of standardized data formats or communication standards is a problem that causes inefficiencies and data discrepancies, and hinders collaboration among healthcare providers.

As the healthcare industry adopts advanced technologies and interconnected solutions, it is crucial to address interoperability challenges in legacy systems. This will enable the full potential of data-driven decision-making and patient-centered care. By collaborating with a healthcare IT vendor, you can incorporate interoperability frameworks (e.g., FHIR), utilize modern integration solutions, and adhere to industry-wide standards to enhance connectivity and efficiency in the healthcare landscape.

Problems with compliance

Regarding the continually evolving healthcare regulations and standards, legacy systems may struggle to maintain compliance with the latest requirements. This can result in legal and financial consequences for healthcare organizations and compromise the quality and safety of patient care. Ensuring regulatory compliance is a complex and ongoing process, and legacy systems may lack the features and capabilities needed to seamlessly adapt to changing requirements.

Modernizing a legacy healthcare system provides a viable solution to compliance challenges by incorporating up-to-date security measures, data protection protocols, and adherence to current healthcare regulations. The updated medical system will be designed to comply with the latest industry standards, such as HIPAA, GDPR, PIPEDA, etc. to safeguard against regulatory risks, and enhance overall data security and compliance posture.

Why perform application modernization for your facility? Our guide will tell you more!

We have revealed the most common challenges arising from the use of legacy healthcare IT systems, as well as the possible ways to solve them. Checking them out, you should realize that the commitment to leveraging modern health technologies is a vital step toward ensuring the seamless integration of innovative healthcare software that can positively enhance healthcare delivery and outcomes.

Should I Necessarily Replace Healthcare Legacy Software? Replacing vs. Supporting

As you can see, legacy medical software solutions have a lot of drawbacks. But is the replacement of outdated healthcare solutions always inevitable? Let’s discover the pros and cons of maintaining obsolete healthcare systems compared to their modernization.

Maintaining a legacy healthcare system

We’ll start with the reasons why you should continue to use obsolete healthcare software and maintain obsolete electronic health record solutions in your medical facility.

Medical facilities value legacy healthcare systems because of the following reasons:

They are stable and predictable. These systems have been used for years, providing a robust foundation for critical healthcare operations. However, you should also consider their potential to become technologically outdated, leading to difficulties integrating with modern technologies and slowing down healthcare app interoperability.

The medical workers' familiarity with healthcare legacy systems. While you support your legacy software, this familiarity increases efficiency as users can easily navigate it, reducing the learning curve associated with implementing new solutions. Nevertheless, the UI and the functionality set of the systems tend to become outdated, limiting the software's ability to meet evolving user needs.

The legacy medical software is cost-effective for ongoing use. In particular, these systems have already undergone the initial investment and implementation phases, and the costs associated with licensing and maintenance may be lower compared to adopting new software. However, maintaining outdated technology can have hidden costs, such as security risks, compliance issues, and the eventual need for extensive updates or replacements.

Transfer difficulty of a sensitive patient data from a legacy storage. The challenge arises when the existing legacy system becomes incompatible with modern data standards and security requirements. Balancing the advantages of retaining existing data with the need for improved data management and security presents a dilemma for healthcare technology organizations relying on legacy systems. Addressing this challenge requires careful planning and investment in data migration strategies that ensure the seamless transfer of information while maintaining data integrity and security.

How to deal with healthcare data migration and succeed? Discover from our guide!

Replace healthcare legacy software

Modernizing healthcare systems can potentially provide cost-effective solutions that enhance efficiency and improve existing healthcare processes.

Let’s consider the benefits of modernizing the medical software systems as well as weigh out the potential challenges of such a decision.

Serious security enhancements. First, a legacy healthcare system often lacks robust security features, making it vulnerable to cyber threats. Upgrading to modern health software with state-of-the-art security measures is essential for legacy information systems to safeguard data confidentiality and prevent data breaches. However, it can be hard to convince stakeholders to invest in modernization, as the potential healthcare security risks of breaches may not be immediately apparent.

Need for agility. Modern healthcare demands flexible systems that can integrate new technologies seamlessly. However, the rigid architecture of legacy systems often hampers the agility needed to adapt to evolving healthcare standards and the scalability required to accommodate growing patient populations. Upgrading allows medical organizations to keep pace with innovations such as telemedicine software development and the use of advanced diagnostic tools.

The challenge here lies in the resistance to change, especially when clinics are accustomed to existing workflows. Overcoming this resistance requires effective change management strategies and a clear communication between the clinic’s staff members.

Interoperability improvements. Legacy medical systems frequently struggle with interoperability issues, hindering the seamless exchange of patient information across different platforms and healthcare providers. Modernizing software to ensure interoperability is crucial for creating a unified healthcare ecosystem where patient data can be shared securely among authorized entities.

In order to solve this issue, you should ensure coordination among diverse healthcare stakeholders and standardization efforts, making it a complex and resource-intensive process.

Reduced maintenance costs. Legacy systems still incur high maintenance costs, including expenses for frequent fixes, updates, and specialized personnel. Modernizing healthcare software offers a cost-effective alternative, allowing organizations to redirect funds toward strategic initiatives.

However, you may find that convincing stakeholders of the long-term cost savings through modernization can be challenging, as upfront investment may be perceived as high. Demonstrating the Return On Investment (ROI) is crucial in overcoming this challenge.

Now, let’s sum up the advantages of the legacy healthcare system maintenance and its modernization.

Maintaining vs. replacing

CriteriaMaintaining of legacy healthcare systemModernizing of legacy healthcare system

Price

Stable, but may have hidden costs

High costs, paying off in the future

Scalability

The legacy system is less scalable to your business

The modernized system is easily scalable to your needs

Effectiveness

Comfortable from the point of familiarity

Adapted to answering your business requirements

Security

Data may be insecure due to constant security updates

Healthcare data is duly protected and compliant to the latest regulations

Integration

Hard to integrate with other systems and apps

Easy to integrate for seamless data exchange

Need tech experts’ assistance?

Book a call with our Healthcare subject matter experts. Our specialists will analyze your IT environment and provide tailored advice on the development approach for your legacy healthcare system

Tips for Managing Legacy Systems in Healthcare

We’ve prepared tips for you to see where to move further while maintain your legacy medical software.

Tip 1. Security prioritization

Secure healthcare data storage is paramount in managing legacy health information systems. Regularly update and patch the existing infrastructure to address vulnerabilities, and consider implementing additional security measures such as encryption and multi-factor authentication. Moreover, to properly maintain your existing medical system, you should conduct regular security audits and assessments to identify and mitigate potential risks. Investing in modern cybersecurity solutions can provide an extra layer of defense against evolving threats.

Tip 2. A data backup and recovery plan integration

Create a thorough data backup and recovery plan within DevOps services to maintain the uninterrupted provision of healthcare services in case of system failures or data breaches. It is important to regularly back up critical patient information and test the recovery process to ensure its effectiveness.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial to consider using cloud-based backup solutions for enhanced accessibility and security. A well-defined plan ensures minimal downtime and protects against data loss, which is crucial for maintaining the integrity of patient records.

Tip 3. Intersystem communication establishment

Improving communication between your legacy healthcare system and other medical solutions promotes a more cohesive ecosystem, enabling different components to collaborate effectively and ensuring healthcare professionals have access to complete patient data.

Caring about communication between your healthcare solutions enhances the entire system interoperability and newer technologies by implementing efficient communication protocols. Use standard data formats and regulatory standards (e.g., HL7 integration, FHIR, etc.) for smooth exchange of data from legacy systems. Middleware solutions integration can also serve as a bridge between different systems, enabling them to share information in real-time.

Tip 4. The maintenance of legacy systems documentation

Document legacy systems’ configuration, processes, and intricacies comprehensively and create a knowledge repository including user manuals, troubleshooting guides, and system documentation. This documentation not only aids in daily operations but becomes invaluable during system upgrades or transitions, facilitating knowledge transfer between experienced and new staff members to ensure that institutional knowledge is retained.

Tip 5. Additional solutions implementation

Legacy system integration with healthcare mobile app development enhances the efficiency of healthcare delivery, allowing clinicians to make informed decisions on-the-go and improving overall care for patients. Integrating mobile applications allows healthcare professionals to securely access patient information from anywhere. You can ask the healthcare IT vendor for healthcare software development services, and they will deliver you a solution compliant with relevant security and privacy regulations to safeguard sensitive data.

You can also conduct integration of many legacy systems with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions to reduce human error, increase efficiency, and free up healthcare professionals to focus on critical tasks. This way, you need to involve the RPA developer role to ensure that RPA implementations adhere to healthcare regulations and security standards to maintain patient data integrity.

Working on the maintenance of legacy healthcare systems, you should also be interested in regulatory changes to keep your solutions legal. Moreover, you should invest more in your staff training to optimize the use of legacy systems and mitigate the number of user errors.

How to Prepare Healthcare Legacy Systems for Software Modernization?

Using our experience in healthcare legacy systems modernization, we’ve prepared a comprehensive plan to simplify your actions in case your obsolete telemedicine systems still need to be modernized.

Make planning activities

Modernizing healthcare legacy software applications begins with a thorough assessment of the current state of your health systems. Evaluate existing functionalities, identify limitations, and pinpoint areas that need improvement. Understand the specific needs and requirements of your healthcare organization to ensure that the modernization efforts align with strategic goals.

The project budget is also crucial for a successful modernization. Consider not only the direct costs of your health software product upgrades but also account for potential indirect expenses such as staff training, downtime, and any unforeseen challenges that may arise during the process. A well-defined plan provides a roadmap for the modernization journey, ensuring that resources are allocated effectively, and expectations are met.

Find an experienced healthcare IT provider

Modernizing legacy healthcare IT systems should be done in tight cooperation with software development vendor since you should ensure compliance with the regulatory requirements, which change quickly. Moreover, you need to assure your patient data is duly protected. That’s why you need a skilled healthcare tech vendor capable of helping you with issues with legacy application updates.

Collaborate with the chosen IT vendor to prioritize data migration, a critical aspect of legacy system modernization. Ensure the tech partner has a comprehensive plan for healthcare data migration, prioritizing safety and regulatory compliance. This plan will help you address potential risks associated with information transfer, outline data validation procedures, and adhere to regulatory requirements (like HIPAA, GDPR, FHIR, ISO, etc.), guaranteeing the integrity and confidentiality of patient information throughout the migration process.

Moreover, a reliable IT vendor should deeply understand medtech compliance, and security protocols. For example, the Cleveroad healthcare software development team is experienced and proficient in creation and modernization of healthcare and telehealth solutions compliant with different medical regulations (e.g., HIPAA, HITECH, CCHIT, etc.) according to your region.

Carefully operate with legacy software data

Prioritizing data means understanding the intricacies of existing data structures, formats, and relationships within the legacy system. Your tech vendor's specialists will help you create a data migration plan that outlines the entire process, from extraction to validation and eventual loading into the new system. This plan should account for potential challenges such as data integrity issues, transformation requirements, and downtime considerations. It is also essential to prioritize continuity of care by minimizing disruptions during the migration process, ensuring that patient data remains accessible and accurate throughout the transition.

When modernizing healthcare legacy systems, maintenance of a stringent focus on safety and compliance is paramount. The healthcare IT provider you collaborate with will help you perform a seamless integration of legacy systems as well as find out that the chosen modernization approach aligns with industry regulations and standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, PIPEDA, FHIR, and other regional healthcare laws. They will do it by conducting thorough security assessments to identify vulnerabilities and implement robust security measures to protect sensitive patient information. Moreover, the vendor's specialists will care about the modernization plan and ensure adherence to healthcare laws.

Choose a modernization approach

The healthcare IT vendor you cooperate with will advise you on the most suitable strategy based on the assessment of your old healthcare systems conducted earlier. Together with the vendor, you will make your choice from the following common options, embracing systems that enhance your overall approach to patient care:

Rebuild

A new medical system development from scratch, retaining certain functionalities and new services to render.

Replacement

An entirely new health solution implementation, phasing out the legacy infrastructure.

Replatforming

Migration to a new medical platform while maintaining the existing functionality.

Refactoring

Restructuration of the health software’s codebase for improved performance without changing the external behavior.

The choice of approach for your legacy systems in healthcare depends on factors such as the urgency of modernization, budget constraints, and the extent of changes needed. The IT vendor's expertise is invaluable in guiding this decision-making process.

Test, monitor, and support the renewed systems

Your development team will gather feedback on the new system's usability, features, and whether it meets the needs of your stakeholders from hospitals and your clients. You can control the process and encourage communication to make necessary adjustments based on the received feedback.

The final steps of legacy systems healthcare modernization also involve rigorous testing, continuous monitoring, and robust support mechanisms. For that, the QA engineers will conduct thorough testing to identify and resolve any issues that may arise during real-world usage. The team will also implement monitoring tools to track system performance, security, and user interactions. If required, the vendor will also regularly update the system to address emerging challenges, security threats, and evolving healthcare standards. This proactive approach to the after-modernization period of medical software often ensures the long-term success and sustainability of the modernized healthcare system.

Necessary steps for your healthcare systems modernization

Necessary steps for your healthcare systems modernization

Cleveroad Experience in Legacy Healthcare Software Modernization

Our healthcare software development team has the necessary experience to modernize healthcare software or create new solutions from scratch for your medical facilities.

We would like to share with you our successful case in modernizing the healthcare legacy software for our client.

Our customer is the US-based healthcare firm Prime Path Medtech, offering medical device manufacturing for the needs of their clients. Their current Quality Management System (QMS) for checking their production was obsolete and ineffective and didn’t meet B2B business requirements.

That’s why they applied to us to:

  • The legacy QMS should be replaced with a new automated system that provides a transparent workflow, a user-friendly interface, and an efficient user experience.
  • The new QMS needs to be integrated with the customer's Quality control services to ensure all necessary processes, functions, and roles for medical device certification.
  • Minimizing overhead costs for the client and their end customers through creating new and robust customized health system.

Our healthcare software engineers rebuilt the outdated solution and made from the ground up a flexible QMS, creating modern functionality modules and scalable architecture. Moreover, we’ve cared about the modernized system’s security, making it compliant to ISO 13485 and FDA 21 CFR 820, as well as 21 CFR 11. We also simplified the system’s workflow to increase system efficiency and UX. What’s more, our team added a separate platform to reduce the client’s manual operations and speed up their internal processes.

As a consequence, the customer obtained a flexible, scalable and responsive Quality management system. The modernized system is duly implemented into our client’s company flows, and its convenience is proven by positive feedback from our customer and their clients.

You're welcome to view our client's feedback about their successful cooperation experience on QMS modernization.

Breanne Butler, Project manager at Prime Path Medtech, tells about cooperation with Cleveroad

Having hands-on experience in creating and modernizing healthcare software, we can help you succeed in your particular project case. Contact us today for booking a consultation with our domain experts as to the tech issues arising with your legacy medical system or discussing your current technology business problems connected to dealing with obsolete systems.

Check-Points When You Need to Replace Legacy Software [Bonus]

So, let’s sum up the widespread reasons to apply for our help with legacy healthcare software modernization.

Performance and scalability issues. If your current health software shows low performance, frequent crashes, or struggles to handle growing datasets and user loads, it may be a sign that an upgrade or replacement is necessary.

Security and compliance. As technology evolves, so do cyber threats, and obsolete healthcare systems may lack the robust security features needed to safeguard against modern attacks. Outdated medical software might not meet the latest compliance requirements, exposing your organization to legal and financial consequences. A replacement should prioritize security features, regular health software updates, and compliance with industry standards to ensure the protection of sensitive data.

UX and adaptability. Outdated healthcare system interfaces and a lack of user-friendly features can negatively impact employee productivity and satisfaction. If this case is yours, you obviously need to modernize your healthcare software to reach better effects.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Investment (ROI). Replacing legacy software involves significant financial considerations, and it's essential to evaluate the TCO and potential ROI. Carefully assessing the TCO and ROI ensures that the decision to replace legacy hospital management software aligns with your organization's strategic goals and financial constraints.

Change management and stakeholder involvement. Resistance to change from employees and stakeholders can undermine the success of a health software replacement initiative. Ensuring that end-users and decision-makers understand the benefits of the new healthcare software and actively participate in the transition process can contribute to a smoother implementation and higher levels of user acceptance. Additionally, seeking feedback from various stakeholders throughout the process can help address concerns and refine the implementation strategy, fostering a more collaborative and successful medical software replacement journey.

Modernize your health system with us

Upgrade your legacy medical solution with a team with 11+ years of practical experience in Healthcare and Telemedicine IT development

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a legacy system in healthcare?

A legacy system in healthcare is a software component for medical facilities characterized by limited interoperability with other medical solutions, security concerns, costly maintenance, and influence on the overall effectiveness. It is no longer supported or updated due to technological advancements or neglect.

What are the vulnerabilities of legacy systems in healthcare?

First, legacy healthcare systems pose significant cybersecurity risks due to their outdated technology and lack of security features. Also the costs associated with frequent fixing, updates, and hiring specialized personnel to manage obsolete technologies divert resources that could otherwise be allocated to improving care.

Legacy systems may also struggle to maintain compliance with the latest requirements due to continually evolving healthcare regulations and standards.

What are some examples of legacy systems in healthcare?

For instance, these are systems that work with the help of the old hardware. Legacy systems in healthcare can also be developed with the help of outdated programming languages or rely on software that is not updated or supported anymore.

How can legacy systems be modernized to improve data sharing in healthcare?

Primarily, you need to find an IT vendor that offers healthcare software development services. The tech partner will help you plan the sequence of activities, the tools necessary to handle the outdated systems, the approach to its modernization and other necessary things.

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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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