Data Conversions

Data conversions can be a very time consuming process during the EMR implementation.  If you are migrating data from one system to another, detailed specifications of the data conversion must take place between the two vendors involved.  Most individuals do not realize that a data conversion is basically a four step process and the charges for these processes can sometimes be misleading.  The following outlines the basic four step process.


Step 1 – Source Data Export

The source vendor must extrapolate the data from their system into an agreed upon data format.  Typically this is file called a CSV file or Comma Separated Value format.



Ken, Hughes, 123 Disk Drive, Hollywood, TX, 76432

Annette, Hughes, 234 Disk Drive, Hollywood, TX 76432


This process must be done on multiple tables in the source system.  Typically, the primary files are patient demographics, insurance, guarantors, referring physicians, charges, payments.  Usually, the source vendor will charge a flat rate for each of these tables to be converted to the specified format.


Step 2 – CrossWalk

In many cases, the source system and the new system do not share the same types of data.  For example, the source system may designate the guarantor as “Mother”, “Father”, “Brother”, etc.  The new system may use a numbering system such as 1 for Mother, 2 for Father, and 3 for Brother.  In this case, either the source vendor has to write a program to perform the conversion on the data or the new vendor has to write the program.  This is where the gotcha can occur if neither one of the vendors explains this process needs to occur.


Step 3 – Data Type Conversions

As mentioned above the two vendors do not share the same data structures and many times one vendor will allow characters and numbers in a field where the other vendor does not.  Special programs have to be written to convert this type of data.  Again, this must be communicated to the physician by the vendors.


Step 4 – Data Import

This is generally the last step where the new vendor brings the data into the system and test that everything is working properly.


As a general rule of thumb, it is best not to perform data conversions on the charges and payments.  This type of data conversion can become quite complex and expensive.  If you do choose to convert the charges and payments, make sure the vendor gives you a flat rate for the entire conversion.  Also, make the vendor give you a timeline for the data conversion.  Lastly, do not pay for the data conversion until you staff has completely tested the data.