MERGER: Blue Shield of California Acquires Care1st and Inherits 800+ Legacy Database Applications

The healthcare industry has been going through a wave of mergers to increase scale and boost buying power and brand strength. Each merger brings challenges on the IT front, including the need to reduce areas of risk and obsolescence, and standardize database platforms. Blue Shield of California, a health plan provider founded in 1939 and based in San Francisco, serves over 4 million health plan members and nearly 65,000 physicians across the state.

The merger of Blue Shield California (BCS) with Care1st  Health Plan of Monterey Park, California, has been aided in key respects by a large-scale IT migration strategy that relies on:

  • Processes proven through multiple client engagements by database transition and migration specialist Help4Access.
  • The proprietary Help4Access Migration Tool™, which is customized to each complex enterprise migration challenge. 

BSC mandated that Care1st standardize all its database technologies onto Microsoft SQL Server. During the merger, however, it quickly became evident this would not be a simple migration. The IT groups found that Care 1st had 800+ database applications written on legacy Microsoft Access 2003. These applications were critical to Care1st operations.

Help4Access was asked to help create the strategy and project plan for the migration, as well as to handle the detailed process of migrating most of these legacy applications to an enterprise-standard technology platform.

Enterprise mergers nearly always entail a significant numbers of legacy applications which support critical business functions, often supported by shadow IT and therefore not on formal IT’s radar. 

Use of our configurable our tools, leveraging our proven processes and dedicated staff, reduce the risk which had been accumulating for years supporting innovative fast growth business leaders.”

                                                                               Sasha Froyland, CEO. Help4Access

Risk of IT disruption must be carefully managed in a healthcare merger

Care1st Health’s 800+ Access databases embodied several aspects of risk:

  • Many of them contained tables with links to other MS Access database applications, text files, and Excel files or other heterogeneous data sources such as SQL Server and others.
  • Many critical business functions depended on the applications on a daily basis.
  • The personnel who created and supported them had long since moved on.
  • The Access versions they used were no longer supported and posed a security vulnerability.

 Executing the migration 

Help4Access applied a combination of its field-proven proprietary discovery and migration tools, plus its experience and processes, to prioritize the Access database applications for migration. The process involved:

  • Ongoing communication with the business areas impacted by the changeover.
  • Documentation and confirmation of the functions of each legacy application.
  • Determining what changes would be required for the BSC environment and business practices.
  • Programming the functionality into SQL Server.
  • Testing and changeover.

Risk management and reliability are improved by identifying the 50 highest-priority migrations, and handling those database applications together as a project. By the time one group is in the testing and changeover phase, work is under way on the next batch.

 Customized Tools to Automate the Migration

Due to a significant degree of automation enabled by Help4Access Migration Tool™, the consultant and staff time required for high-complexity database applications to be migrated was reduced by 50%.  For less complex database applications, the proprietary Help4Access migration tools – once customized for Care1st applications and BSC requirements – automated 80% of the work involved in migration.


The migrated applications are now updated to match current business practices and BSC processes. They are being linked to newer data sources that did not exist when the app was originally developed. Help4Access also assists with strengthening the security and compliance profile of the migrated apps.

Help4Access supported this $1.2 billion healthcare merger by reducing the risk factors in a large-scale IT migration of critical database applications, delivering on an efficient and trouble-free execution of the migration. This could only be accomplished by a systems integrator that brought deep domain knowledge in Microsoft Access, SQL Server, migration issues, and healthcare business operations.