A 2019 Government Accountability Office report details the 10 most critical legacy IT systems in the federal government — all of them between about 10 and 50 years old. Some systems operate with known security vulnerabilities, run on obsolete hardware and/or unsupported software, or are written in outdated programming languages.
These older systems are more expensive to maintain, put data at greater risk and are less effective than technology available today, the report says.
“The public sector is finding that the talent they have to support those older systems is retiring, and that those legacy systems are limiting their ability to innovate and deliver better user experiences,” says Thomas Ortiz, a partner at Information Services Group, a technology research and advisory firm.
Agencies have several ways to upgrade their systems, including rewriting applications and replacing legacy code with modern programming languages, buying commercial software or moving applications to the cloud.
In doing so, they can streamline business processes, automate manual tasks, bolster security and reduce support costs, while providing users with a more accessible user interface and improved customer service, the GAO report says.
IHS Modernizes Its Software to Improve Healthcare
IHS, a component of the Department of Health and Human Services that provides healthcare to 1.6 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives, is in the early stages of modernizing its Resource Patient Management System, a software suite for managing clinical, administrative and financial operations at its 150 sites.
RPMS is based largely on VA’s VistA EHR application built in the mid-1980s, but it still has its roots in IHS’ original 1969 EHR system. In fact, the GAO report considers RPMS to be five decades old, though it’s unclear how much of the 1969 software code remains.
When VA in 2018 announced it would retire VistA and replace it with an off-the-shelf EHR solution, that prompted IHS to explore its own modernization. “We rely on the VA for a significant portion of the support when it comes to some modules like pharmacy and radiology labs,” says Thornbrugh.