The Digital Shift in Healthcare: Overcoming Legacy System Challenges

Legacy systems, while once the backbone of many healthcare organizations, are increasingly becoming more of a hindrance than an asset. According to a 2021 HIMSS survey, 73% of healthcare provider organizations operate on legacy information systems that are costly to maintain.

The Digital Shift in Healthcare Overcoming Legacy System Challenges

These outdated systems not only lead to increased financial burdens for the institutions but also present challenges in integrating with newer, more efficient technologies. In a healthcare ecosystem where timely access to accurate data can be a matter of life and death, such impediments can interrupt critical workflows and delay patient care, potentially leading to medical errors, prolonged hospital stays, and an overall decrease in patient satisfaction.  

They also pose a serious security threat, as they may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks targeting healthcare organizations, systems that aren’t receiving security patches become easy targets for hackers seeking valuable patient data. In 2023, data breaches in healthcare have cost businesses an average of $9.3 million per incident. This not only compromises finances and patient privacy but can also affect mission-critical clinical applications, resulting in even more financial penalties and damage to the institution’s reputation.  

Understanding the Hurdles 

Given its limitations and consequences, moving from legacy systems to modern alternatives seems the most logical choice, but the process is filled with complex challenges, requiring thoughtful consideration and meticulous planning, to be implemented properly.  

According to Boston Consulting Group, only 30% of digital transformations succeed in achieving their objectives. When it comes to dealing with legacy systems, each healthcare provider organization faces unique challenges in its operations, some of the common hurdles are:  

Financial considerations: The sheer complexity of the migration process alone can cause recurring short-term expenses, discouraging healthcare organizations to make the change. Exhaustive training among employees, the consultation of subject matter experts during the transition, and rigorous testing methods can add to the time and cost-intensive factors that can influence decision-making.   

Regulatory and Compliance: Moving away from a legacy system requires the careful migration of data to ensure no breaches or losses. Ensuring that the new system is compliant with regulations like HIPAA from day one, and that no data is compromised during the shift, can be challenging.  

Resources and Expertise Constraints: Healthcare professionals accustomed to legacy systems may resist transitioning to new interfaces. Securing subject matter experts to facilitate a smooth transition can be challenging. To address such challenges, comprehensive training, and ongoing support becomes pivotal, which involves a matter of time and resource allocation if they are to be successfully implemented.   

Mergers and Acquisition Dynamics: During M&As, the integration of systems can be complex. Transferring data and processes from an older system to a new one requires careful handling to avoid errors and data loss. 

Why Embracing Change is Imperative  

In an age where digital transformations are rapidly becoming the norm, switching to modern alternatives can be costly, but despite its initial investment, it can yield greater dividends in the long run.  

The impact of legacy systems isn’t limited to administration alone and can impact patient-centric care, as well. By proactively taking measures to lower reliance on legacy systems, it can make room for better patient engagement by proactively monitoring patient’s well-being, to create better personalized treatment plans. 

5 Things to Consider Before Re-engineering Legacy Systems  

To navigate the complexities of retiring legacy systems and embracing modern alternatives, a comprehensive strategy, unique to the healthcare organization’s requirements, is essential. Every organization’s needs and dependency on legacy systems versus modern alternatives like cloud storage can be different, however, healthcare providers can greatly ease the transition with a focus on these key areas: 

Detailed Assessment: Conducting thorough assessments of their current systems, and collaborating with IT professionals and technology partners, can help in pinpointing inefficiencies, vulnerabilities, and areas in need of immediate attention.  

Data Migration Blueprint: Having a good data migration plan in place ensures a smooth transfer of extensive data archives and patient records from legacy systems to modern platforms. A well-thought-out data migration plan can minimize disruptions, and verify data integrity while maintaining uninterrupted flow of patient care.  

Interoperability: Considering the interoperability of software is of utmost importance. As healthcare heavily relies on data sharing and coordination, evaluating how well new systems integrate with existing infrastructure becomes important. Utilizing open APIs can significantly enhance this integration, ensuring seamless communication between disparate systems and reducing obstacles during migration.  

Strategic Roadmap: A well-defined strategic roadmap can serve as a guiding blueprint, outlining clear timelines, resource allocation, and key milestones, providing a structured approach to the transformation. It enables healthcare organizations to navigate the migration process seamlessly, provide directions, and utilize invaluable insights and expertise to ensure a successful transition.  

Support & Training Plan: Prioritizing staff training and support can help ease the transition for those accustomed to legacy systems, fostering a culture of adaptation and growth. Moreover, proactive cybersecurity measures, such as regular updates and patch management, are vital to protect new systems against evolving threats.  

Focusing on these areas can yield invaluable insights and expertise, to facilitate a seamless migration process, by creating a detailed roadmap to outline transition steps, timelines, and resource allocations to provide a structured approach to the transformation.  

In Conclusion  

While the retirement of legacy systems in the healthcare sector is inevitable, the journey towards growth and sustainability is not without challenges. A proactive approach can pave the way for secure technological solutions, crafted by meticulous planning, strategic training investments, and a comprehensive approach to navigate the complexities of migration.  

Moving away from legacy systems can ensure improved data security and operations and propel healthcare providers toward a future defined by efficiency, security, and patient-centric excellence. 

At Propel, we understand the intricacies of healthcare IT. If you're looking to navigate the complexities of this transition and harness the benefits of modern systems, our team of experts is here to guide and support you every step of the way. Connect with us to explore how we can collaborate for a seamless digital transformation. 

Posted on 17 Oct 2023