IM (Instant Messaging) EMR/EHR Integration

In my first post on IM in a clinical environment I discussed some of the benefits and options available by having an IM program rolled out in a doctor’s office. IM really is a killer application that can facilitate communication. We all know the benefits good communication can bring to a doctor’s office and the pains bad communication can cause.

I love the idea of IM being integrated into an EMR. In fact, so much so that I asked my vendor if they were going to integrate IM into their EMR when they told me that they were looking to integrate the whole Outlook like messaging and calendaring system into the EMR. The response to my IM question was that it wasn’t on their roadmap and that they weren’t sure they’d want an IM popping up while they were in the middle of a patient visit.

I haven’t thought through all the complexities of integrating IM into an EMR in a way that wouldn’t be obtrusive, but would still facilitate the needed communication. However, I’m confident that with a little thought it could be built so that the communication happens without leaving the doctor in an awkward position and while still protecting the privacy of the patient.

Matt Chase, of Medtuity (one of the more forward thinking EMR companies out there), offered some interesting insights into possible benefits of having IM integrated into an EMR. Here’s a quick summary of some of his thoughts on it with some of my own additions.

IM Direct Link to Patient Chart – If I’m sending a message about a patient to the doctor, then it’s very likely that the doctor will want to look at the patient chart.  Certainly I could send the number or possibly the name, but if the IM is integrated into the EMR, then I could include a link in the IM which would take me directly to the patient chart.  As I’m typing this, why not have the ability to embed a part of the patient’s chart right in the EMR?  You could even direct link to a specific part of the chart or document that was uploaded that the doctor might need to see.

Patients Image Shown in Discussion – Assuming you’ve captured the patients image in your EMR for reference (and many do this), why not show the patient’s image in the IM message when someone mentions the patient.  How much would having the picture of the patient help if you received an IM message that said, “John Doe from last week has an abnormal lab.”  Most doctors are much better with faces than they are with names.  In the name of HIPAA, they probably should be.  Why not jog their memory of the patient by including a picture?

Click To Save to Patient’s Chart – Some IM discussions might be worth saving in a patient’s chart.  Sure copy and paste works from other IM programs, but why not make it one click to save it to the patient chart.  Of course, I suggest making it a one click add, but still let it be editable so that someone can format the IM before saving it completely.

EMR Access = IM Access – No one needs to know where you’re signed into EMR.  As long as you’re accessing EMR, then you’ll get your message.  This could be in a room, in your office, on your cell phone at the hospital, or in the Bahama’s when you were checking your EMR because you missed it so much (hopefully not likely).

EMR Defined Groups – Built intelligently, the EMR could be built to know which staff was on duty.  For example, we have a number of lab techs in our clinic.  Either a flag in the EMR or just by the lab tech’s activity in EMR it could know who to send a lab message to.  Look at it like a virtual IM account that the EMR intelligently knows who is available.

I’m sure there are many more features or benefits that would be only available by having IM integrated with EMR.  Are there any others that I missed?  Are there people using IM in their practice?  Is it integrated with your EMR?  I’d love to hear people’s thoughts and experiences with IM in health care.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • We have built a prototype of a HIPAA secure IM based communications solution that is designed to interface with EMRs. Our focus is forming a collaboration community. Please contact me if you would like to discuss working together. I can be reached at

  • Steve,
    It looks like you have something pretty interesting going on. It seems like you are also trying to do a doctor’s portal as well? I’d love to see a demo sometime. Do you happen to have a video demo of the product which I could post to my site? Something like that could be pretty cool.

  • George,
    That’s a really different product than IM that we’re talking about. IM in this case is instant messages between users in the same clinic (usually). The product you are talking about is between a patient and doctor or doctor and outside doctor. I think this is most often called a patient portal or doctor portal. Still a really cool tool, but vastly different than the IM talked about in this post.

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