Data Abstraction & Conversion Best Practices for New Epic System Go Live (Part I)

The EHR market is set to grow to $39.7 billion by 2022. As patients and providers alike push for better access to data for informed care management and decision-making, healthcare organizations are making significant investments in their EHR systems for cohesive care coordination in the transition to value-based care.

If you are like many leading health IT professionals today, your organization has made a multi-million-dollar purchase of a new Epic EHR system. Now what? After months, and possibly years, of planning for your new Epic system, one of the biggest issues for IT end users has been the first Epic ambulatory visit with patients. Why? As with anything new, the system is a major change for your providers and staff. It will take time for them to learn the new system functionality and develop muscle memory to navigate through seamlessly.

One of the most important things you can do to improve the go-live process is to make sure key patient data is entered prior to both the go live and the first patient visit. Minimum key data points on each patient should include schedule visits, allergies, active medications, active problem list, immunizations and preferred pharmacy.

How can you smooth the new system adoption process?

In part I of this two-part blog series, consider the following three takeaways for EHR system data abstraction and conversion:

  1. Legacy system data cleanup
    12 months before your Epic go live, begin cleaning up the key data in your legacy system. Why so early? Many patients only visit their doctors once a year. By beginning the cleanup processes one year prior, you will have plenty of time to make sure the most accurate information is transferred into your new system. This is especially pertinent for the problem lists and medications. Doing so greatly speeds up data load into the new system and ensures with each subsequent visit that providers are addressing the active patient problems. Keep in mind though that if you have data in your legacy system that is no longer valid, this is your opportunity to start fresh.
  2. New Epic system patient data entry
    How much time does it take to enter the data into the new system? Depending on the complexity of your patient population, it can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes per patient to enter and validate a patient’s data into Epic for the first time. Remember, this is a new skill for your staff to learn, so it will likely take them longer at first to enter data as they learn the new system.
  3. Data pre-loading best practice
    How soon do I begin entering this data into Epic? The best practice is to pre-load your first 2-3 weeks of scheduled patients into Epic prior to go live. This allows your staff to have the patient data ready during the first few weeks of actual new system use. It also reduces stress on your staff, allowing them time to learn and adapt to the new system. Depending on the number of active patients and scheduled appointments, multiply the average of 5-10 minutes for best and worst-case proactive planning of time needed for data entry prior to the go-live date.

Check back for part II covering data conversion staffing solutions, CCD load and auditing.

Getting Through a Go-Live

Have you survived a HIT go-live?  Just like “this one time, at band camp,” several of us have “this one time, at a go-live” stories to share.

Entire system go-lives, upgrades, even small optimizations can be considered a go-live. This is the time when you find out if all the testing really helped and if the end users truly absorbed the training.


Though go-lives can be a true test of stamina, here are some tips to best tackle the big event:

1)      Has anyone else gone through a similar go-live?  Schedule calls with other vendor clients to go over lessons learned from their go-live.

2)      Know your schedule long in advance to prepare for the longer workdays.  Your family will be without you.

3)      Get plenty of sleep!  It can be difficult to change your sleep patterns, but you need to be alert.

4)      Don’t eat the junk food in the command center.  If food is being provided, have everyone ask for healthy alternatives to cookies and doughnuts.

5)      Document everything.  Make sure you keep good notes on any build done for the go-live.  You or a co-worker may have to undo something if it causes a problem.

6)      Be invisible when not needed and working on tickets.  The command center can get crowded and out of control at times. You want the end users who stop by to see that everything is in control, so they’ll feel comfortable.  They’ve been given a new system or a change to the system to get accustomed to and take care of patients at the same time.  Knowing their support is in control will help them more than you know.

7)      If a quick fix to an issue isn’t available, try to come up with a workaround until a permanent fix can be completed.  End users on all shifts will need to be kept up to date with workarounds and any fixes.

8)      If you’re very lucky and get caught up, ask if anyone can use your help.  You would appreciate the help, right?

9)      Be sure to thank all of your teammates!  Everyone who has supported you through the go-live would be considered your parachute packers.

10)   Once the go-live is complete and everything is working perfectly, offer your lessons learned to other vendor clients to go full circle.

Please share your best go-live stories.  What could have been done differently?  What are your suggestions for your next go-live.