Fund Healthcare Modernization and Innovation – Retire Legacy Applications
By Julie Lockner
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided the healthcare industry incentives for the adoption and modernization of point-of-care computing solutions including electronic medical and health records (EMRs/EHRs). Now that these funds have been allocated and invested in new information systems, hospital and patient care provider CFOs are checking in on the return on those investments. Many are coming up short.
These mega EMR/EHR applications are taking longer than planned to implement leaving a number of legacy applications running in parallel. In addition to hardware and software maintenance costs for both environments, costly resources with skills to maintain aging technology platforms drain IT budgets – funds needed to support new systems.
This challenge is not unique to the healthcare industry. A recent survey  of companies with over 50 IT staff shows that on average, 70 percent of the IT budget is spent on existing systems. If half of the applications are redundant, this represents a major opportunity for cost savings or reinvestment.
Why are so many legacy systems still running? An industry research report  indicates the #1 reason is that users still want to access data. As creatures of habit, many hospital staff continue to use familiar systems to look up patient information and records out of convenience. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost.
Another reason is because entire legacy data sets are not always migrated to new systems. Data with assigned records retention schedules require collaboration between stakeholders and compliance teams. Without a programmatic approach, application retirement projects can be significantly hampered.
Many providers have overcome these hurdles and successfully implemented an application retirement strategy while migrating to a new system saving millions.
For example, the nation’s largest children’s hospital expects to save $1.8 million annually from retiring legacy applications. Their IT modernization program replaced applications running on aging platforms such as HP Turbo Image, SQL Server, Oracle, and MUMPS with an EPIC implementation. Patient clinical data needed to be retained for compliance reasons, so they deployed an application retirement strategy that allowed them to keep that data and eliminate dependencies on legacy systems and applications. Hospital staff was given online, convenient access to data in a secure archive and compliance teams could track retention.
Key to success, they claim, includes a platform with the following capabilities:
- Archive support for a variety of data types, systems and platforms
- Automated validation to confirm data had been completely and correctly archived
- Ability to assign retention policies during or after the archive process
- Automate data purge workflow when retention periods expires with legal hold support
- Mask sensitive data in case a clinical trial is reopened
 NCC survey companies with over 50 IT staff
 Enterprise Strategy Group Research Report, Application Retirement Trends, October, 2011
Julie Lockner is vice president of product marketing for Informatica.