Healthcare data migration best practices

A healthcare organization’s data is complex, high volume, and requires strict security protocols to comply with HIPAA. Managing healthcare data can be an incredibly difficult process without the right best practices. This guide will show you how to effectively migrate healthcare data.

A medical professional working with data.
Image: Blue Planet Studio/Adobe Stock

Data is the world’s most valuable resource, and healthcare produces some of the most valuable data. The medical sector generates and stores vast amounts of highly sensitive information, which means it must take its data operations seriously. Health data migration is one of the most difficult of these data operations to be performed securely and effectively.

SEE: Data Migration Testing Checklist: Before and After Migration (TechRepublic Premium)

As trends such as telemedicine and digitization in the healthcare industry continue to increase, these already enormous amounts of data will also continue to increase. This growth means many healthcare organizations will eventually need to migrate their data, which is a process that needs careful planning.

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What is health data migration?

Health data migration is the process of moving medical information from one location to another. With 96% of US hospitals using electronic medical records, this often means moving medical records to a new EHR platform. Alternatively, some medical organizations may migrate data from a hospital to a new physical location.

SEE: Health data governance and the case for regulation (TechRepublic)

The migration of health data can also relate to non-patient data. For example, you may want to transfer financial information or other company records to a new system, whether it is a migration to the cloud or a data center transfer.

Another reason for migrating health data is to make more room for new data on a higher capacity storage device. You can also choose to migrate to a new storage platform to improve your cybersecurity or regulatory compliance.

Best practices for health data migration

Regardless of the specifics, health data migration involves copying and/or moving potentially sensitive information, which poses a significant risk. Here are some best practices to follow to mitigate these risks and ensure data migration goes smoothly.

Check all applicable standards

The first and one of the most important steps when migrating health data is to ensure your data is compliant with the relevant regulations. Your organization and its information may be subject to multiple regulations such as HIPAA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or the General Data Protection Regulation, all of which dictate how you can store certain types of data.

It’s important to review these standards to determine if you have data that is subject to specific legal requirements. For example, while HIPAA-covered data is exempt from the CCPA, some information in HIPAA-compliant organizations is not. Failure to recognize this data and take the necessary security precautions in your new system could lead to legal problems.

Assess and organize your data before moving

Many parts of the migration process — including complying with government guidelines — are much easier when you have enough insight into your data. Before you move anything, it’s important to review your data to determine what you have, where you store it, how you use it, and what your specific security needs are. This information will guide your decisions about what to move and how to move it.

SEE: Data quality in healthcare: current problems and possible solutions (TechRepublic)

You probably don’t need to migrate all of your data, so you should evaluate it first to see what’s most important. Because 75% of Americans over the age of 65 have multiple health conditions, you may have more elderly patients than any other demographic. Consequently, it makes the most sense to focus on moving older patient records to a more secure or scalable platform.

Alternatively, you may have multiple unnecessary copies of some information, so you should delete unnecessary files prior to migration to ensure a smoother transition. Reviewing and organizing your data will help uncover these needs for a more strategic migration.

Choose your migration tools and storage systems carefully

Careful selection of the next data medium is also important. Look for a solution that is scalable and reliable enough to handle larger amounts of data while still meeting your organization’s security needs. Similarly, review any data migration tools you use to ensure they are secure and will work well with the types of data you are moving.

If you work with third parties like cloud providers or software vendors, check their history and certifications to see if they have a strong security record. Incidents like the Red Cross data breach show how third-party vulnerabilities can impact your data. To avoid these types of problems, make sure these parties are trustworthy and follow data governance and security best practices before allowing them access to sensitive data systems.

create backups

A simple but easily overlooked step in health data migration is backing up your most important data. Mistakes can happen during migration, even with careful planning and reliable tools, and your information is too sensitive to assume you won’t make those mistakes. Creating secure backups of all critical data before migration ensures that migration issues do not result in data loss.

SEE: Best backup software (TechRepublic)

HIPAA sets strict backup requirements for protected health information that serve as excellent guidelines even for non-HIPAA data. Look for a backup solution with encryption, strong authentication controls, and auditing capabilities. Cyber ​​criminals can get as much out of your backups as they can out of data on your main storage media, so it’s important to keep them safe.

Create and follow a detailed migration plan

Finally, make sure you create a formal, detailed data migration plan that outlines when and how you will move your data. This plan should include the following details:

  • What data you are moving to a new location.
  • What tools you use to move it.
  • The time and date that you move each record.
  • How to back up your data.
  • Who is responsible for each step of the process?
  • What to do if something goes wrong.

The more specific your plan, the easier it is to move your data. Make sure you can easily share this information as well, as mistakes are less likely when everyone understands their roles and knows who to contact if they have questions.

Migrate your data with confidence

Health data migration might be intimidating, but with thorough planning, it can be a smooth and secure process. To get the most out of this step, you first need to know what to expect from your migration tools and systems, and what can go wrong.

SEE: Data governance checklist for your company (TechRepublic Premium)

With a detailed data migration plan, you can ensure your data operations are scalable, secure, and compliant. From there, your team can make health data actionable for both patient and business outcomes.

Continue reading: Top 10 Data Migration Tools (TechRepublic)

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