In the first part of this blog series, I discussed the perils of running your business with legacy systems.  We also considered the various Cost and Risk aspects that are deterrents to migration.  

Nonetheless, deterrents do not mean that we need to avoid migration entirely. There is a mid-path that we can adopt for legacy modernization while addressing the concerns around Cost and Risk.

In this blog, I will discuss a couple of alternatives to “rip and replace” that we have successfully implemented for our customers.

The big bang approach

Our customer, a leading EHR vendor, had multiple EHRs in their portfolio, added mostly through acquisitions. These EHRs were acquired with the intention of migrating all the customers to one of their flagship products. However, most customers decided against the migration. As a result, they ended up supporting multiple EHRs each on a different technology. Moreover, each EHR had customers on multiple versions and some with very specific customizations. As you can imagine, supporting multiple systems, while ensuring compliance, was a true nightmare.

Today, I am sure many of us face this dilemma with M&As becoming a common phenomenon.

This customer tried to implement a platform strategy to integrate all the systems at the backend and provide a single sign-on integration at the user interface level. The effort failed miserably, as it neither reduced the maintenance cost, nor helped migrate their clients on to a single platform. HealthAsyst stepped in and provided a strategy for complete reengineering. As a result, a futuristic, cloud-based, multi-tenant solution was built, providing a better user experience and a clean migration strategy.

Although an expensive approach, re-engineering allows you to mitigate the risk of obsolescence while offering an opportunity to redesign the system based on experience gained. This ultimately helps you build a more efficient and easily-maintainable system.

A conservative reuse and replace approach

In certain cases, we may need to make changes to our systems to respond to market demands. For example, we may need to change the application’s user interface to a modern look and feel or provide a mobile-first, responsive UI. It’s important for us to assess the existing architecture to determine whether reengineering is really needed or if reuse can help. For many customers, we have resorted to reusing existing components, at a lower cost.

Let me illustrate the case of one such customer here. They had a patient portal that was not being used, mainly due to a clunky user interface and a few performance issues. Since the customer was on a tight budget, the HealthAsyst team considered the possibility of reuse. With minor tuning, we could practically reuse the entire backend system and redesign the user interface with a ‘Mobile-First’ approach. We could provide a solution at almost one third of the cost and in half the time it would have taken to completely reengineer.

Re-using involves optimizing and tuning up legacy systems so that the customers can continue deriving value from it. Sometimes, legacy systems do not need to be discarded as they can still serve the purpose well.

Also, there may be cases where legacy systems can be replaced in a time-bound manner. For instance, for one of the Practice Management solutions that we maintain at HealthAsyst, the strategy we used was to replace the legacy portions part-by-part, in a phased manner. This is a great option if you are not in a hurry to migrate and it also doesn’t add to additional development cost, if the same maintenance team can support the migration.

There’s no one-size fits all

To conclude, re-use and re-engineer are two strategies that you can adopt, depending on, among other things, your budget, objectives for modernization, your business goals, etc. Re-using can help when you run with tight budgets but have flexibility with timelines to get the most out of your legacy systems. Re-engineering on the other hand provides you the flexibility to rethink, redesign, and provide a new approach to meet and exceed the expectations of your customers.

Since it’s a complex decision that merits thorough forethought, a technology partner who can demonstrate that they have handled complex re-use and re-engineering projects in large organizations would be your best bet. It’s important to work with an organization that has your best interests in mind, which can work alongside you in meeting the objectives within your budget and on time.

The magic of sustainable migration

One of our customers, a leading electronic healthcare payment provider, had a complex legacy system for payment consolidation and remittance. Their business was growing exponentially and the legacy system was unable to keep up. HealthAsyst employed a sustainable, component-wise migration approach instead of a big-bang approach to ensure business continuity. Please read this HealthAsyst Case Study to understand how the customer was able to reap the benefits of a modern technology platform, acquiring greater customizability and scalability with minimal disruption to business.

Want to know how we have helped several such large and medium-sized EHR vendors undertake complex legacy modernization projects? Please write to itservices@healthasyst.com

Watch out for the next blog in the series where I will discuss the various techniques involved in modernization.

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