Posted By Monique Dever On October 19, 2016

Five Steps to a Successful EHR Data Migration

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As a result of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive program, many Public Health Departments, FQHCs and other health centers have been converting or upgrading their electronic records systems.  When converting from one electronic system to a new Electronic Health Records system, migrating data can be a complex process.  The existing vendor will likely claim it is difficult and the new vendor may say it is easy.  The point is, if you approach it with the attention it needs you will set yourself up for success.  And if you get it right the first time, you will prevent system workarounds, insure clinic efficiency, and most likely avoid extra costs and decreased revenue.

Planning ahead and allocating appropriate IT people and time are really important.  Generally, the data migration process can be broken out into five (5) key steps.  You must keep in mind that each step of data migration is truly a collaboration between your clinic’s staff and your EHR vendor.  Each side is responsible for certain tasks in order to be successful moving forward.  So, let’s get into it…  You have some work ahead of you!

  1. Discovery

The Discovery process is mainly the customer’s responsibility.  Customer’s IT staff is are responsible for extracting data from the current system and providing it to the new EHR vendor in a format they specify for the data upload.  During the discovery process, you will learn how much data is available to convert and how much of that data you actually need to convert (e.g. 10 years of records vs. needing only the last 3 years).  In addition, you will need to make sure the data you are converting is clean and accurate.  You do not want to migrate bad data into the new EHR system.

  1. Scope Definition

Understanding the data to convert, method of conversion, and priorities help assess the overall scope of the project.  Schedule time to review the records, format them to meet the new formatting required from the new EHR vendor and set processes to update record fields that are not available in the conversion.  (e.g. “bi-racial” designation in old system vs. “check all that apply” race designation in new system.  Perhaps agree to leave the field blank and fill it in during the patient’s next visit.)


  1. Conversion Development and Testing

Once the Scope of the project has been fully defined and the data has been formatted for the new EHR system requirements, customers can pass the responsibility to the new vendor for a while.  Based on the customer input, the new EHR vendor IT staff will map the data fields from the old system to equivalent data fields in the new system (e.g. first name to first name or gender to gender) and upload test conversion data to a testing site.

  1. Validation and Sign-off

This step is a joint responsibility between the customer and the new vendor to review and make sure the converted data is correct.  This step may require several cycles.  In the end however, it is the customer’s responsibility for final review of content, validating the records and signing off on the final data set.

  1. Migration

Once the customer has verified that all the data is accurate, the vendor will execute the final migration of data to the live database, and your clinic will go live!


During this whole migration process, you will be making some important and often tough decisions about how to handle the data, the methods of how various data will be converted, and the overall priority regarding the data to be migrated.  Not all current data, such as patient registration or billing balances for example, will be migrated.  In addition, records dated beyond the set timeframe you chose to convert, will not be migrated either.  So, make sure you have systems in place to either update current records or archive old records so you do not need to rely on your old system.  Plan ahead.  Schedule the necessary time to spend on the project and work closely with your new EHR partner and move forward as soon as you are ready.  The key to success is paying attention to details.

About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.