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  • Viewpoint: 7 Tips for Getting the Data You Need From Your Old EHR

    Viewpoint is a column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.

    Transitioning to a new electronic health record (EHR) system can be difficult, not least because it’s often hard to get your data from the EHR you’re leaving.

    Often, they charge high fees or state that they can only give you your data in PDF form, if at all. Here are some tips on how to get the data you need.

    1. If your EHR vendors can give you your data, they must.
    As of April 5, EHRs must comply with the information blocking provisions of the 21st Century Cures rule. This means that, if they have the capability to transmit your data, they must do so. EHRs may charge a cost-based fee to transmit the data and are allowed a “reasonable profit margin.”

    2. Review your contracts with the EHR.
    If your contract with your EHR vendor does not explicitly state that there will be data migration fees, the vendor cannot charge you.

    3. Ask for a breakdown of the fees.
    If your EHR charges you a data migration fee, ask for an accounting of the fees. Fees that are exorbitant and not cost-based may violate the information blocking prohibition.

    4. Consider hiring an expert to facilitate the migration. 
    Your new EHR vendor may be able to import data from your old system into theirs, but, often, not all data. If keeping your previous system in an archived or read-only state is costly or not possible, consider an archiving system that you can integrate with your new EHR to retain historical data that can’t be converted. This can be complicated to do; hiring an expert in EHR migration can make the process easier.

    5. Ask for help.
    If your EHR is not providing the information you need, ask for help. A health care lawyer or regulatory compliance consultant is more likely to ensure that vendors transmit your data.

    6. Report your EHR vendor for information blocking.
    If step No. 5 above is unsuccessful, it’s time to report your vendor for information blocking. Access the ONC Information Blocking Portal.

    7. If all else fails, use HIPAA.
    An EHR cannot withhold data needed to fulfill HIPAA requirements (including patient requests to access their records), even if the vendor says that you owe them money or additional fees. Note that HIPAA does not require that the records be in an electronic or machine-readable format.

    A Look Toward the Future
    After Dec. 31, 2023, EHRs must be certified to the EHI (electronic health information) export capability. Once certified to EHI export, vendors will not be able to charge for exporting all stored electronic health information to a new EHR unless specifically agreed to in your contract. If your EHR vendor gets certified earlier, they will not be able to charge for the export at that time.

    About the Author

    Jessica Peterson, MD, MPH, is a health care quality and IT policy expert. Through her leadership in professional medical societies, she has become a leading expert on the Quality Payment Program and health IT policy and implementation, including information blocking and interoperability. She is vice president of health policy at MarsdenAdvisors, a boutique consulting firm focused on making the practice of medicine easier. You can reach her at