New Federal EMR Requirements Hasten Demand For Archiving 2.0 among Health Care Providers

I recently had an interesting conversation with an IT Director who is currently working in health care. We were discussing how his job has evolved with the complexity associated with EMR (electronic medical record) systems and how IT in health care has been especially burdened. Beyond just playing technology catch up, there are numerous regulatory and litigation threats now hovering over it. He specifically pointed to litigation as one area that represents a growing risk to his company’s business and how responding to eDiscovery requests for electronic information has become a huge burden.

The $19 billion dollars provided in the Federal Stimulus Bill has given a large incentive for health care to implement an EMR, but implementation doesn’t come without pain.

There are numerous hurdles for IT to overcome, besides the high costs of implementation. Health care IT must deal with systems that consolidate patient care, revenue cycle, and other cross departmental functions within the organization, as well as assisting departments in the redesign of patient care processes, all while getting key stakeholders such as doctors and nurses to embrace an EMR. This doesn’t touch the technical issue of security, data storage, disaster recovery, uptime requirements and user support demands.

While project problems are by no means reserved to just health care and are seen in other industries as well, there are five (5) specific areas that are causing health care IT frustration:

    1. Email deletion and management are very difficult;
    2. Complying with legal hold requests is problematic;
    3. Storage needs are exploding due to policies that restrict email deletions;
    4. Constant pressure to cut costs;
    5. Capital purchases take more time to get approved.

Basic archiving technology has historically addressed issues arising from email management, but does little to solve these new issues concerning how best to manage data across multiple platforms, respond to eDiscovery and other requests for information, and manage storage costs. These problems that this IT Director is encountering and the solutions he needs are reflective of the next generation of archiving technology, or Archiving 2.0.

Archiving 2.0 provides benefits that go beyond just moving files and emails from the production data store into another repository. Rather Archiving 2.0 is part of a broader solution that delivers a unified approach to information management that centralizes and streamlines the eDiscovery response process when faced with legal action or other requests for information.

This information management platform should simplify complex problems companies face, like the problems outlined above. Archiving 2.0 needs to be up to today’s challenges of:

    1. Quickly and efficiently implementing legal hold;
    2. Having a routine and defensible means to delete files;
    3. Data management from disparate systems;
    4. Managing Cost control;
    5. Meeting ever increasing regulatory mandates.

Delivering on the promises of Archiving 2.0 in any industry, but especially in health care, is complicated by the still nebulous requirements of the recently passed Federal Stimulus bill. However, changes are occurring in current archiving products to respond to these new requirements and move archiving to the next generation.For instance:

  • Manages data other than email and files in the archive. Some products like Symantec’s Enterprise Vault support the ingestion of countless file types into its archive. This includes important technologies such as Sharepoint as well as data specific to EMR systems.
  • Deletion of expired data through a common policy management engine. Policies allow a systematic and routine approach to deletion of documents in a repeatable and defensible manner. Enterprise Vault supports deletion of data pursuant to an organization’s data retention policy. This automated and repeatable approach helps streamline an organization’s expiration process and relieves the burden on individual employees.
  • Data archived can be held according to a legal hold mandate. Once data is moved into the archive regardless of where it originated, organizations can apply a legal hold on relevant data through a common interface. Enterprise Vault allows companies to quickly suspend the deletion of archived data in response to a legal hold request.
  • Control costs by moving data ready for archive off of expensive primary disk storage to less expensive secondary disk storage. Archiving 2.0 still needs to deliver on Archiving 1.0’s original value proposition – reclaiming primary storage space by moving aging or infrequently accessed data to less expensive storage. However, even here it is not as easy as it may have been in the past. The emergence of private and public cloud storage offerings is putting new demands on archiving products to support these offerings.

In Archiving 2.0, the application from which the data originates should become irrelevant as the archive will be able to ingest most file types. While it still serves its original purpose of reducing storage spends and improving application performance, the archive takes on a new role of becoming the central repository of an organization’s data. From this centralized location, information can be managed and administered so eDiscovery and legal hold mandates can be consistently applied across all of an organization’s archived data stores.

Archiving 1.0 has served organizations well, but companies in general and Health care IT specifically, need archiving to move well beyond this initial model. Products such as Symantec Enterprise Vault are evolving to deliver on these new requirements. Archiving 2.0 provides solutions to today’s more complex problems of exploding data growth, responding to evolving rules and regulations, and cost containment.

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