Challenge of Storing and Sharing EMR Data

Today, I came across the best description I’ve seen of the difficulty of storing healthcare information and also making that information shareable with another EMR in a way that is meaningful.

Longitudinal patient information is arguably one of the most temporally and spatially complex information sets known. Certainly GIS and others are complex as well but the science of medicine and therefore healthcare is constantly changing creating a moving context. To understand how to treat a patient the healthcare provider needs to be able to understand what has worked as well as what hasn’t worked in the context of what was known about the patient and the treatments available at any point in time. This creates an environment of very complex data relationships. If any one of those relationships are broken then the semantic context of the data is lost and now there is a loss of information. Data items need to be bundled and stored as a complete unit of understanding for them to constitute information. Once broken apart into separate data items they are much like Humpty Dumpty.

Certainly the above description describes the challenge of storing and sharing both the healthcare information and the context of that healthcare information. I still can’t help but think that we need to simplify our goals for EMR data sharing into small achievable goals.

The above description also kind of reminds me of my previous post about the “Body of Medical Knowledge Too Complex for the Human Mind.” The description above reinforces this challenge as well.

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.


  • Though the hospital or professional provider capture the EMR, i think it should belong to the user and should be available to him in vendor netural electronic format so that it can be ported to other EHR system if needed.

    I believe that all above issues can be addressed up-to the certain extent if we let patient capture its information at one common place (may be in form of website) and decide upon who should be viewing it.

    By taking out the EHR vendor locking towards its format, the data would be more up-to-date, regulated, and interoperable and would be in safe hand of User.

  • Atul,
    What vendor neutral electronic format do you suggest? CCD is the closest we have and it has its weaknesses. Plus, there are some vendors that are pretty resistant (very big ones in fact).

    No doubt, they should be doing as you suggest. It’s just getting there which is hard.

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