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Cleaning Up a Legacy System Junkyard

February 25, 2014
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Dignity Health has targeted 192 applications for retirement and has already driven 65 out of the system
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In an era of mergers, acquisitions and EHR consolidation, do you know what many large health systems end up with? Legacy system junkyards — dozens of old applications so old they are no longer supported by vendors yet still in use by a handful of people in the organization and with years of historic information in their databases. What are they doing about it?

At the HIMSS conference in Orlando, Steve Davis, manager of enterprise archive and decommission for Dignity Health, described his organization’s efforts to collaborate with clinicians, the compliance department, legal staff and revenue cycle staff to reduce costs, retire legacy applications, and maintain compliance.

Founded in 1986 and headquartered in San Francisco, Dignity Health started with 10 hospitals and has grown to 40 hospitals and hundreds of Clinics. It is the fifth-largest nonprofit hospital provider in the nation. It is in the process of moving from a heterogeneous IT environment to a consolidation, with a $1 billion investment to roll out Cerner to all 40 locations. That means migrating as much data as possible from legacy systems, but also a chance to review the entire portfolio to see which legacy applications could be retired, Davis said. Dignity took the first steps of a five-year program by creating a retention roadmap for system decommissioning. That involved creating a comprehensive inventory that took into account the impacted lines of business, compliance and business retention requirements, and the data owners.

Business owners typically want to keep all the data, even when the data are not tied to an official system of record. “In partnership with legal counsel,” Davis said, “we defined a record retention policy for hospitals across three states and defined retention requirements by data type.”

Dignity targeted 192 applications for retirement, and has already driven 65 out of the system, through purging and archiving.

That has freed up more than 5 terabytes of storage recovered and 390 servers decommissioned to date. That has translated into $4.5 million in hard dollar saving so far. “It has been a significant savings and a real eye-opener for a lot of people.”

Davis added that the experience has pushed Dignity to be more proactive about archiving going forward. “We are getting in on the process a lot earlier now,” he said.  We are requiring each new project to include us and requiring wording into contracts to make sure we can get the data so we are not this position again six years from now.”