Avoiding Disappointment in Hospital M&A Data Transfers

December 11, 2019
Shelly Disser

Hospitals can adopt these tips when managing large amounts of clinical, administrative, and financial data.

No one enters a union willingly without having great expectations for its success.

Hospital and health system mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have increased significantly in the past decade, with buyers and sellers looking for operational, strategic and financial benefits.

A common use of a M&A-derived capital is the purchase of new health information technology (HIT). But before hospitals can reap the benefits of new HIT, they have to figure out how to manage the data they are acquiring-in essence, a complex array of active and legacy clinical, administrative, and financial data.

Unfortunately, data management is not usually high on everyone’s list as they negotiate and work through the conditions of an M&A transitional service agreement. As a result, the situation can be frustrating, including unrealistic expectations, costly deadline extensions and sullied reputations.

Optimally and compliantly managing active and legacy data transfer comes down to knowing what, when and how to archive, as well as setting realistic expectations from the start.

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What and when to archive

It’s best to map out which area of the organization will be most impacted by the system you are archiving: clinical, financial or perhaps a mix of revenue cycle and financial. Decide which data is worth unlocking and transferring to a proprietary system, and which can remain live as is, and when.

When it comes to revenue cycle systems, some organizations expect to go live on their new system and quickly archive old revenue cycle data. However, fresh collectives will be stuck in archives instead of being available in a legacy system for further run downs. This has been known to create a revenue hit. By properly analyzing use cases and the level of functionality needed, hospitals can find that accounts receivable sweet spot.

How to archive

Here are some tips on how to archive, based on lessons from the field:

  • Establish the proper format for delivery that allows for easy archiving or conversion. Know the options for freeing up the data and making it clean and consumable wherever it ends up. Determine which can be images and which must be discrete in another form.

  • Take steps to assure access to financial and clinical data so regulators and audits can be managed on day one. Know what needs to be available and the time it will take to extract for the system transition. Start with a wish list among stakeholders, then prioritize based on budgets and resources.

  • Be ready to capture dollars from open revenue or billing. Determine if the buyer or seller will work down the AR, how long that will take, who gets the dollars, what it’s worth and which systems to use. Working within the source system helps dollar recovery but may not offer the best ROI.

  • Decide how to archive old data in the best format for proper use of the systems you will manage. Align the extension to bypass a rushed process and inappropriate extraction formats. Avoid wading through one giant PDF without discrete data and the risk of submitting a patient’s entire medical record when legally required to report a single record for one visit or incident.

Set realistic expectations

A successful transition benefits not only the buyer but the seller. Sellers have to provide data and might face challenges or need to do the work twice if data appears to be incorrect, incomplete or in an unusable format. Proper planning and processes will help prevent major issues and keep the seller’s compliance record and reputation intact. Specifically:

  • Learn about the archiving process and what’s required-particularly data that must be accessible for clinical care-to set realistic expectations about what you can access and where on day one. Possibly change the workflow throughout the archiving process, educating users along the way.

  • Plan each phase to avoid an extension, including contingencies for problems during migration to the new system or the archive. Mitigate risks of circumstances beyond your control, such as a systems failure at either facility or a community-wide power outage.

  • Develop separate extension timelines for archiving financial and clinical data. Negotiate a step-down approach during migration, as different systems may become unnecessary, while others need to be archived, backloaded or converted to work down an AR.

Lastly, get help from a professional. A consultant or healthcare contract expert can work with the archiving team to develop the most efficient approach and help make this a better and more successful experience and union for all.

Shelly Disser is vice president of solution delivery at MediQuant-offering her expertise in management, data strategy, and analysis.