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Data transfer to an EHR system

November 1, 2010
by Nelson W. Burns
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While data transfer is not new to the technology world, it brings a whole new meaning to me in the Behavioral Health world. I am speaking, of course, of the process where one takes health information from one source (hard copy or electronic) and transfers this data to another electronic data source. At Coleman Behavioral Health, we are expanding to three new Ohio counties and must transfer approximately 2,400 individuals into our Qualifacts electronic health record (EHR) system. To document management professionals this process is routine; yet to administrators in the Behavioral Health world this process seems foreign. It is my contention, that administrator should at least understand the process in order to make effective decisions.

In the data document business, the process of managing data is often referred to ECM or electronic content management; some refer this also as enterprise content management. When data needs to be transferred from hard copy to electronic copy, this is often described as back file conversion. I know many of my peers are getting PDF files down on their customer’s health records and then saving their PDF files to their new EHR documents. Coleman has been fortunate to operate a document management business, Coleman Data Solutions, for more than 20 years. So I am a bit more familiar with the historical changes from the old fashion data entry business to the new web-base ECM business process.

In today’s world, when electronic content is to be transferred into a new medium or EHR, database specialists are used to successfully transfer data from one system to common database software and then transfer this data into the new EHR. This sounds complicated and has its difficulties. I suggest using competent a database specialist who has experience in transferring data and have competent programming skills to make effective changes as issues arise. For BH administrators, EHR is frightening enough not to mention should data of a scheduled psychiatry appointment be dropped! By becoming more knowledgeable about this industry, administrators can be more effectively prepared to make responsible decisions.



Seems to me you need interface programmers not database specialists. First of all, the source system should be able to export its data in some reasonable format (e.g. flat file, one record per row, some delimiter between data elements). And the target system should either be able to import this data as is or the data needs to be formatted such that the target system can import the data.

Data exchange products are available to get around the fact that data elements in the source system will not have the same names/data types/sizes in target system.

There is no need to acquire a knowledge of the database structure of either system.

The most significant problem in legacy data conversion is to validate data going back in time (i.e. code sets used to validate incoming data typically are current codes, as you go back in time you find data that uses different codes. The filtering mechanisms reject the data and you need a data specialist to decide whether to reject the transaction, upgrade the code or make a new entry in the list of valid codes.

Nelson W. Burns

Nelson W. Burns

Nelson W. Burns has been the president and CEO of ...

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