The Time is Now: Reviewing Your Legacy Healthcare Applications

By: Andrew Kerr, CEO at FortyAU

Lately, we have been getting lots of questions from our larger clients on when is the right time to consider upgrading their existing legacy applications and decided it was worth a deeper discussion.

For large healthcare enterprises, the strategy for legacy applications is equal parts risk and opportunity . On one hand, these longstanding applications contain years of patient data and institutional knowledge that form the backbone of key organizational processes and know-how. On the other hand, aging applications can pose security risks, be a drain on top IT talent, and often lack the agility to keep pace with today’s pace of innovation.  I always tell clients that our engineers have a lot of respect for working production software.  Our engineers know how hard it is to design, build, and launch enterprise systems so we stress caution and do NOT casually pitching a re-write in the name of simple “modernization” or “innovation”.  However, the reality is that the risk with aging systems seems to compound over-time and that there can be very tangible upside to moving to the cloud or simply refreshing the user experience.  So how can we drive good, pragmatic decision-making when it comes to legacy applications?

The Strategic Value of Application Assessments

The best place to start a legacy application is a 3rd-party application assessment.  Application assessments provide fresh perspective and visibility into the current state of your legacy workflows. Skilled engineers will analyze factors like business logic, data structure, interfaces, reporting capabilities and the status of the existing infrastructure.  Beyond the purely technical dimensions, we will also look at “how hard is it for a new developer to spin up on this system” and consider existing team processes may help or hinder your current operational teams.

This process also quantifies the gap between where you are today versus where you need to be to thrive in the future. With clear metrics established, you can strategically map out modernization efforts based on priority.

Key focus areas include:

  • Security – Identify vulnerabilities that put protected health information at risk.
  • Compliance – Assess alignment with healthcare regulations like HIPAA.
  • Agility – Pinpoint barriers to quickly adapting software to changing needs.
  • User Experience – Find opportunities to improve and simplify the end-user experience.
  • Cost – Weigh the current drain on resources versus modernization effort.

Armed with assessment insights, you can make informed decisions about working to optimize or replacing legacy systems. You may also uncover situations where retaining and enhancing legacy applications is the smartest path but can also carve out a longer-term roadmap for eventual replacement. 

Vetting the Right Technology Partner

Modernizing enterprise-wide healthcare IT takes specialized expertise. Evaluating and selecting the right technology partner is crucial.

Look for these key characteristics:

  • Domain experience – Seek partners with a proven track record in your industry.
  • Technical capabilities – Review their mastery of technologies like cloud, analytics, APIs and more.
  • Methodology – Validate their structured process for assessments, roadmaps and modernization.
  • Cultural Fit – Choose a partner invested in understanding your organization and goals and not simply the cheapest option because of the high-risk profile involved.
  • Proven Results – Ask for case studies and metrics demonstrating value delivered.

Auditing Ongoing Performance

The initial legacy application assessment and modernization project is just the beginning. Be sure to establish ongoing audits of your tech partner’s performance.

Key metrics to track include:

  • Security and compliance – Monitor for adherence to protocols.
  • Response time – Measure speed and agility meeting emerging needs.
  • Platform uptime – Track availability and reliability.
  • Project delivery – Assess on-time, on-budget, and on-scope execution.
  • Communication – Evaluate quality, clarity, and transparency.
  • Innovation – Ensure they provide forward-thinking solutions, not just maintenance.
  • Cost optimization – Compare current costs versus projections.

By regularly auditing your tech partner, you can ensure the relationship continues driving maximum value. Adjust course promptly when metrics fall short.

Moving Forward with Confidence

Considering the high-risk nature of legacy applications, it is well-worth your time to think ahead and identify the right partner (or partners). With over 15 years leading strategic development projects across various industries, we know that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The timing depends on factors unique to each organization. What FortyAU emphasizes to every client is that legacy systems must be reviewed regularly as part of an ongoing modernization strategy. Even if a full revamp isn’t feasible yet, small enhancements today can pay dividends down the road. 

It starts with having candid conversations with your technology partners now to evaluate your current landscape. Together we can determine priority areas for optimization based on your budget, resources and strategic goals. Don’t let inertia keep you locked into aging systems too long. With careful planning and expert guidance, auditing and upgrading legacy healthcare IT can position your organization for continued success.
Reviewing legacy healthcare IT takes courage, but action is imperative. A skilled partner can help you analyze where you stand today and chart a course to where you need to be. With legacy systems optimized or modernized, you can empower clinicians to provide better patient care while controlling costs. The time is now to take control and transform healthcare delivery through technology.

Have an existing project that needs extra development help?