The Anatomy of a Medical Archive

The Medical Archive is comprised of five parts:

1. Structural Process

2. Composition of storage files

3. Investigative Search

4. Delivery

5. Archive Analysis (analytical search)

Understanding these components and their interrelationships will help determine the value and urgency of creating an archive for patient medical records.

Structural Process

The process of activating Medical Archive tools begins with obtaining source databases which contain the necessary medical records. Extracting and combing patient records and their related images, notes and other data is next. For testing purposes a selected sample of the records are used. The small number of records reduces staff time to validate the process. Once validated, all patient records are loaded into the Archive database. No edits are performed on the data and none of the data is reformatted. It is stored in the Archive database, “as is”. Data integrity is preserved as it exists in the source database. Thus the Archive is not “converted data”. In cases where original data content is required, a true Medical Archive is indispensable.

The final step in this structured process is to deliver the Archive database and Query programs for testing and validation.

Composition of Medical Archive files

The Archive contains all the data associated with each patient. It preserves relationships between data elements. It does not require nor maintain data dependencies. In other words, where a patient record is required to have an address associated with it, the Archive will contain all patient data even though the address may be incomplete or missing. Simply put, the Archive contains only the data that is provided in the source system.

Investigative Search

Before beginning any serious analysis it is necessary to determine what data is available. An investigation of the archived records will reveal their nature and relative content. Statistics are part of this investigation and can be a key in determining further analysis. When the object of the analysis is to determine trends, it may prove beneficial to perform data sampling before committing the analysis. On the other hand, when a complete set of records is required, the full data file is available.


The Investigative Search can also be used to select records to be delivered to another party. Delivery can be electronically and/or hard copy. Patient records are requested for various purposes: medical referrals, patient request, legal summons. They can also be imported into an EMR system.

Archive Analysis

To begin an analysis, the Archive will first provide a means to reduce the pool of records. One example is to use a search criteria that eliminates records which do not meet that criteria. The search tools are relatively simple. They are designed to provide results which compass a refined set of records. Each smaller, more relevant collection of records can be filtered repeatedly. The goal is to deliver a focused record sets for further analysis. The analysis can be done by more complex analytical tools. Many are available from which to choose. They are commercially available. Each is designed with specific purposes in mind. Some will come with additional functions that provide for more relevant data selection and categorization. The selected Archive records are the raw data formatted for further evaluation.


The purpose of the Medical Archive is preserve and present data in its original form retaining its accuracy and completeness.

KW Norris is an IT professional, consultant and Sales Executive. KW works with medical clinics and medical software vendors to provide the best technology solutions available to improve quality and efficiency in the medical office. If you need a technology solution, KW can help you find it.