By the beginning of 2012, you had, for months, been contemplating changing your software and upgrading to a paperless system.
By the beginning of 2012, you had, for months, been contemplating changing your software and upgrading to a paperless system. But this would require moving all your data over to the new system.
Because you have hundreds, if not thousands, of file folders, years of transactions, financials and appointment histories on your computer, the task just seemed too overwhelming. Furthermore, your staff does not want to learn another system.
Now, already into February, you feel trapped! All of your data is in this one system. Should you accept the inadequacies, loss of efficiency and stunted growth, and avoid the inconvenience of a change for the better?
Basically, you have five major goals with respect to a change in software. You want to:
- Become more efficient;
- Save time at the table side and write better notes;
- Save your staff time;
- Enhance the patient office experience and flow in your practice; and
- Educate and grow your practice.
In wanting to upgrade your software, you have great intentions and should not let the problem of transferring your data stand in the way. Let’s discuss the world of data transfer, data conversion or data migration.
SORTING OUT THE TERMINOLOGY
The term data transfer is often used and merely means transmitting data from point to point. This can be done using various means, for example, through a USB memory stick, wirelessly or even through the Internet. With a data transfer, your data does not change in any way – it stays in the same file format.
Data conversion, however, is a term that needs to be explained. Throughout the computer world, data is encoded in various ways. The easiest way to explain this concept is to use video files as an example.
These were previously the domain of online “geeks,” but now almost every household has streamed videos and has dealt with video codex and player compatibility issues. Video files are encoded in many different formats, called codex, and can often be viewed using a multitude of players. However, some video players require the video to be converted into a different codex before being viewed. Other types of data can also be converted from a simple text file, that is, from one character encoding system to another, or into a more complex scenario, as with the conversion of office file formats.
Another buzzword that is used interchangeably with data conversion is data migration. Experts invariably will tell you that data conversion is a subset of data migration. Data migration includes these extra items: data profiling, data cleansing, data exception mitigation and validating the application to make sure it works with the converted data.
In short, though, data migration and data conversion are the transfer of data between computer systems, also known as programs. It is usually performed via programming to achieve an automated migration and avoid the tedious task of entering everything manually. The programmer will map all the individual fields from the old system to the new system. It requires someone with years of training and experience and has been described as detective work.
A programmer must go into another database structure and figure out where things are stored and how they are stored before bringing them into the new system. A good analogy is going into an old house that has been rewired multiple times while never taking out the old wiring. Some programs have poor structures in the background unknown to the end-user.
THE BOTTOM LINE?
So here’s the deal: you are not a programmer. You are a really good chiropractor who just wants to help improve the lives of those you serve. Furthermore, you don’t want to waste your staff’s time entering everything into the system to do a manual conversion of data once you have purchased new software.
And so, many offices wind up settling for second best simply because they are afraid to change or disrupt the office.
What options are out there, and what should you do?
1. Search for a software company that will provide you with a data conversion for your current system. Is that possible, and do companies provide that type of service, you wonder? From experience I can tell you that very few companies provide a data conversion and if they do it is usually very limited.
2. If a conversion is available, ask them in advance what to expect from the conversion. If they haven’t previously converted your system, it will require a larger investment in time on their part, and your co-operation. You won’t know how much information is going to be converted until you receive the final result. Since you’re treading into the unknown, ask for previous conversion referrals!
3. If they don’t provide a conversion, be prepared to hear one of these four common reasons:
- Your current system is so outdated we can’t possibly retrieve any data;
- Your database is protected and we can’t access the database;
- We simply do not provide database conversions;
- Your data is corrupt.
In short, if you decide to go with this company you will be required to manually enter all your current patients’ demographic information, appointments, charges and insurance information into the new software. Can you imagine the hundreds of hours of work this will create for you and your staff? You risk frustrating and losing your staff, along with some patients as well.
And so, if the company you are looking at states any of the four above reasons for not being able to transfer your data over, what is your alternative?
The alternative is to search for a software company that is willing to take the time to look at your data and give you some advice. A world-class team will be able to analyze your database and give you feedback regarding the amount of data that can be transferred. In many cases they should be able to transfer all your data, saving you hundreds of hours of work and thousands of dollars of data entry.
Just remember you are in the driver’s seat – you have options! The level of service you receive converting your data, and the quality of training you receive on the new system, will certainly indicate the level of support you can expect in the future.
Dr. Stephane Laverdiere is a 1995 graduate of the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, Illinois. He is president and co-founder of Atlas Chiropractic Systems, a paperless office solution. He is also founder of the Internet video marketing company, ChiroVMail. He can be contacted at 877-602-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.atlaschirosys.com and www.chiroVMail.com for more information on digital solutions for your practice.
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