In a digital-first world, your healthcare company is increasingly tech-driven. And as you deliver more and more of your services digitally, you rely on a progressively complex web of back-end health IT systems. Of course, you built out your back-end systems over time. You probably started years ago with a core administrative processing solution (CAPS). Since then, you’ve woven in new systems as the need (and technologies) have arisen. The result? A legacy patchwork of interrelated systems that likely can’t keep pace with the most sophisticated technologies available today.
All that legacy infrastructure is like having to carry a great, big, heavy piece of luggage with no handle. It’s awkward and uncomfortable to carry, yet you can’t drop it. After all, your day-to-day business operations depend on your systems’ uninterrupted performance. And with legacy systems, an “uninterrupted performance” is no small feat. Which is why you may find yourself allocating the majority of your IT budget to maintenance — rather than innovation.
You know you could improve your performance and customer experience by modernizing your backend systems. But pulling the trigger represents a daunting decision, one that comes with significant costs — and no small amount of risk. Yet you can’t keep operating on your legacy systems forever. Wait too long, and you’ll pay the price in the form of a subpar customer experience that sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the competition.
So how do you know when the time is right to “break up” with your legacy system?
The Risks of Breaking Up With Your Healthcare Legacy Systems
Before you make any hasty decisions, it’s wise to consider the complexities and risk associated with modernizing your legacy healthcare systems. The most common concerns include:
- The risk of costly downtime
- The risk of losing data
- The risk of not being able to migrate data to the new system
- Loss of institutionalized knowledge and disruption of internal processes
These risks, while real, shouldn’t dictate your decision. That’s because you can effectively mitigate all of them with careful planning and the right IT expertise (whether in-house or contracted). But no amount of careful planning can undo the limitations of your existing legacy systems. In fact, those existing limitations will only get worse with time.
However, there is another, thornier risk-related question you must consider. And that is, will you upgrade one system — such as your CAPS — within your backend ecosystem, or should you upgrade everything all at once?
As you know, your fully integrated backend system includes a tangle of interdependencies. Upgrading one component of your system is sort of like renovating an old home. The complexity comes in marrying the new construction to the old structure and making it feel like a unified structure.
Often, it’s easier and more efficient to tear the whole house down and build a new one rather than tying old and new components together and bringing the entire house to be “up to code.” The same is true of your legacy systems. The decision to upgrade one system will inevitably trigger repercussions elsewhere within your backend.
In addition to your CAPS, you almost certainly have other legacy systems and infrastructure within your ecosystems that need to be evaluated. If a comprehensive modernization project is in order, you’ll need to develop a roadmap and corresponding budget to manage this major overhaul.
The Top 5 Signs It’s Time To Break Up With Your Legacy Systems
If the following struggles sound familiar, it’s probably time to say goodbye to your legacy backend systems.
- Stifled growth. Your backend systems are interrelated. And unfortunately, you have to move at the pace of the oldest, slowest part of your system. Let’s say the database you use for your claims information is outdated. Even if you buy or build the newest, most technologically advanced member-facing portal, its performance will still be limited by the old database. You might be plagued by slow load times or experience untimely crashes during enrollment periods. Do you find that your legacy systems can’t keep up with your newest infrastructure, yet you’re forced to plan around the lowest common denominator?
- Blocked innovation. Innovation is critical to the ongoing success of your healthcare company. And innovative approaches require modern technology, such as web sockets, which needs cooperation from the rest of the software suite. Antiquated software simply isn’t capable of interfacing with modern data systems. If your legacy system is a stumbling block to innovation — preventing you from exploring things like real-time data retrievals and interactive user experiences — it’s time for a change.
- Increased security threats. When new software comes out, it’s supported in the form of regular security patches to protect the data structures within. Legacy software, on the other hand, often isn’t supported. As soon as it’s superseded by a newer product, it’s left to “fend for itself.” Over time, the security soft spots associated with a legacy system are bound to grow. And with a wealth of sensitive personal identifying information (PII) data at play, that’s a risk no healthcare company can afford to take.
- High maintenance costs. A quick look at the average healthcare payer’s IT budget tells you everything you need to know: Maintaining legacy systems is costly. Not only that, but engineers who are willing and able to operate old infrastructure are a dying breed. Newcomers to the field are much more interested in working with the newest and most innovative technologies. If the majority of your IT budget goes to maintenance, it may be time for a change.
- Regulatory requirements. Changing government regulations may mean it’s time for a legacy system overhaul whether you want it or not. Recent federal regulations, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Interoperability and Patient Access rule (CMS9115F) mandate a patients’ ability to move from payer to payer with their healthcare data intact. In other words, CMS9115F and other regulations make healthcare companies responsible for the interoperability of their systems in terms of how data is shared. These rulings alone will force many healthcare organizations to modernize. If your systems aren’t up to snuff, the time to start planning is now.
Time for a Breakup?
You may have just discovered that a breakup is in order. Don’t fret. With the right plan in place, your efforts to modernize your healthcare systems will yield dividends in the form of increased innovation and a first-rate customer experience.