EMRs: Increasing Complexity and Capabilities IV

EMRs as networks of networks

The Internet is sometimes described as a network of networks. Electronic Health Records (EHR or EMR), like the Internet, are becoming a network of networks. Just three examples: Practice Fusion provides cloud based EHRs for physicians that facilitate the exchange of information between practitioners and patients, the later in the form of personal health records (PHRs). OmniPACS provides cloud based bio-imaging data services that facilitate sharing of information between bio-imaging service providers, doctors and patients, the later in the form of, you guessed it, PHRs. Surescripts provides e-prescribing software so a doctor can accesses the patient’s prescription benefits and medication history from all of their doctors (including patient visits to in-store clinics)   and route prescriptions to a patient’s pharmacy of choice.

A friend of mine describes it as, “the systems are transparent to the data.” What is important is the ability of the systems to capture the data, store it, protect its privacy, and make it available in various forms to meet the needs of the people who “own it” or the needs of people who are authorized by an owner to access the data. Systems will come and go and others will evolve to meet the needs of the owners and users of the data.

The growth of EMRs began with stand-alone systems and is evolving by adding network capabilities. The simplest level is the exchange of data located on a single computer between two doctors or a doctor and patient. We are rapidly moving to an environment in which the data–wherever it is located–can be shared. Specific patient data can be shared to meet the needs of the patient. De-identified general data about a patient population can be shared for research and public health.  The data can be delivered in multiple formats to meet the needs of a broad variety of users while protecting patient privacy.

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