‘Digital transformation’, that somewhat overused and under-defined term in my opinion, is happening across the globe. The ultimate aims seem to be centered around increasing efficiencies in the delivery of care and improving patient outcomes – all laudable goals. These objectives are all couched in activities to control costs, improve workflows, ensure security, and to leverage healthcare data.
What have legacy applications got to do with any of this?
Good question. In healthcare, legacy applications are everywhere! It never ceases to amaze me when I talk to customers how pervasive they are. But when you dig in a little deeper, it makes sense.
As part of their digital transformation journeys, many healthcare organizations are re-assessing their technology landscape and procuring new, richer-featured applications. These can be new electronic health record (EHR) systems and patient administration systems (PAS), clinical applications or specialist departmental systems (such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS) or enterprise imaging systems (such as PACS, RIS and VNAs)) through to administrative and business systems (such as document management systems and HR applications) and the list goes on. Generally speaking, when an organization procures a new system it, by default, creates legacy applications.
As part of their growth strategies, some healthcare providers are acquiring or merging with other providers. This typically results in the inheritance of duplicate applications. Crudely speaking, the acquiring organization now has two of everything!
And then there’s those outdated, ‘out of support and maintenance’, and/or home-grown systems that seem to pervade all healthcare organizations, often sitting at the back of a server room, gathering cobwebs. Few know what they are or what they do, how they work, and are scared to touch them in case something happens. So, they are ‘best left alone’ to run, somewhat hidden in the background (‘out of sight, out of mind’).
Legacy applications cost!
Before we delve into some of the softer, hidden expense of legacy applications, let’s tackle the obvious one. Legacy applications cost money! Typically, these tangible costs comprise:
- Software support/maintenance contracts
- Hardware support/maintenance contracts
- Server room space (and the opportunity cost of that space)
So, no surprise, legacy applications aren’t free. Many of them come with significant licensing, support fees and more. And each year healthcare organizations have to dedicate a large portion of their budgets to keep these systems running. Often, as they continue to age, the associated maintenance costs tend to increase, sometimes disproportionately to the value they deliver. Unfortunately, its commonplace to see these costs perceived as ‘business as usual’ with organizations somewhat resigned to the hefty price tag they have to swallow each year.
Look out for part 2 of this blog
In part 2 (which will be published on Friday 17th November), we will further explore the cost of legacy systems, but with a focus on the softer, less tangible, non-financial costs to healthcare organizations. And we’ll look at ways that providers can overcome their legacy application challenges.
Working in tech marketing for almost 30 years, and specifically in health tech for the last 13 years, John has and continues to learn about the real issues faced by healthcare providers and is convinced that technology, when specified and implemented correctly, can be a ‘game changer’ in the delivery of patient care.
At BridgeHead Software, John is working to disrupt the myopia around healthcare applications instead supporting the view that data (and not applications) is the strategic asset by which patient outcomes and experience can be improved.