Operating System of Healthcare IT

Likewise, says Allscripts’ Tullman, “today we’re building the operating system for the future of healthcare. This country can’t afford its healthcare system anymore, so something’s got to change. We can no longer buy our way out of the problem.” – Source: Information Week

The above comments sparks all sorts of interesting thoughts and questions for me. The first is “What is the Operating System of healthcare IT?” Obviously, we’re quite sure Tullman hopes that it’s the suite of Allscripts products. Although, how ironic is it that one company can have 5-10 (I lost count) different EMR software. I’ve never known an operating system to have 5-10 completely different software. Seems like something needs to change there. Unless you want to say that various segments of healthcare IT are going to have different operating systems.

I do feel like EHR software is the operating system of healthcare IT. It’s going to be the basis upon which many other software packages are built on.

I imagine the above statement is probably why Tullman made the comment and the comparison. Allscripts has an ambitious project (although I haven’t seen many results yet) to create a kind of app eco system for healthcare IT apps. There are other vendors that do the same. For example, I know that SRSsoft has open API’s that allow developers to extend their apps. I love this movement in the EMR world. My biggest challenge is identifying the application developers that are interested and willing to leverage these APIs. That part of the app ecosystem seems to be missing to me.

My next thought is that similar to how we didn’t realize how beneficial an application like Excel would be until we had the operating system that facilitated its creation. Who is going to create an Excel like app that can run on the EMR operating system and provide benefits to claims processing, clinical decision support, diagnosis help, insurance billing, etc etc etc. Certainly it’s possible that the O/S (EMR) developers will make a lot of these applications, but I won’t be surprised if the EMR is just the platform that allows other smart people to innovate on a particular subject.

In my time writing about EMR, one thing has been very clear. You can’t be all things to all people. An EMR vendor that embraces, supports and creates a strong healthcare IT application developer community would cause me to take notice above the noise.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, 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, EXPO.health, 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.


  • The statement by Tullman has 2 sides to it:
    1) EHRs are the “operating system” or foundation of health care – this point is arguable
    2) EHRs save money – this is just laughable.

    Should a practice go electronic? Yes.
    Should a practice to electronic to save money? No.

    If EHRs were money saving devices…docs would have been on them for years.

    Most EHRs, as they try to do everything for everyone, have become bloated & inefficient.

  • Having just looked at a bunch of EMR systems, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. Most of the programs available are written in .Net and look like (and work like they came out in 1980! What a sorry state of affairs.

  • drrjv,
    Many of the EMR systems did come out back in 1980. I like to call many of them Jabba the Hutt EMR vendors. They’re big and powerful, but good luck getting them to move.

  • “Although, how ironic is it that one company can have 5-10 (I lost count) different EMR software. ” Allscripts may have this many software apps because they have built their foundation by purchasing EMR’s that were failing and are now working to create 1 solid platform. By purchasing software that is for lack of a better term, ,becoming extinct, and offering free conversion of that data to their platform, having different platforms for the size of a practice or facility based on cost structure while simultaneously creating an Allscripts Network for physicians to share patient data across is a fantastic notion. I think that we have all seen that all EMR’s are not easily customizable to different scopes of practice, perhaps they are on to something. And I may be biased as a reseller of Allscripts, however, I researched a ton of EMR’s before deciding to work for a company who sells Allscripts, and I think that the flexibility of their product stands far above other platforms.

  • We looked at Allscripts – If memory serves me, it was one of the 80’s type programs: two separate sign in’s for PM and EHR (because you’re working with two separate programs), very limited correspondence formatting, only one window open at a time.

  • I am not sure which version or piece of Allscripts you viewed, but I know the MyWay version tailored to small practices (up to 6 providers) has an integrated PM and EMR system. Also this system has multiple window functionality with free movement navigation within the chart note. Feel free to contact me if you would like info, I am not trying to use this forum as a selling point, I wad just trying to

  • New operating system for healthcare It? In fact healthcare IT is changing the face of the healthcare industry. This is just a beginning and there is more to come.

  • The problem with Excel is that it’s not scalable, but as an interface between programs it works very well. I use it to interface my MS Access EMR (yeah, yeah, I’m still using it/growing it) with Office Ally.

  • Heather,
    It’s hard to paint broad strokes when talking about Allscripts. Precisely because they have so many EMR software. Funny thing is that most doctors don’t realize this fact. So, when they make comments such as the one drrjv did above, it’s hard to know which of Allscripts EMR product they’re actually talking about.

    Healthcare IT,
    It’s definitely just at the beginning, however, I still believe that EMR/EHR software will likely provide the O/S for future healthcare IT innovation. Follow the money, but I’d also suggest Follow the data. The data’s going into these EMR.

    Glad to hear you’re still growing it. You’re a far braver man than I.

  • Here is the real OS of Health Care IT:

    Microsoft .Net

    Which I think locks developers into a less than desirable development platform and may explain the current state of health care software.

  • Now, consider breaking it down by SaaS EMR vs Client Server EMR and Legacy EMR vs Newly developed EMR. Might be an interesting way to evaluate the future success of companies and SaaS vs. Client Server.

  • […] I strongly believe that healthcare will be a very heterogeneous environment. Some might argue that 3-4 EHR vendors will dominate the market (which I don’t believe), but even if this is the case EHR software is still going to have to connect with hospitals, pharmacies, labs, payers, government entities etc. An EHR is going to be key to integrating with these other heterogeneous software as I do believe the EHR will be the “Operating System of Healthcare.” […]

  • […] Dr. Billings then goes on to make the case that open source EHR is the best of both worlds. He compares the open source EHR vista to Linux and Red Hat to Medsphere. It’s a pretty app comparison of what Medsphere is trying to do. Dr. Billings does point out that an enterprise EHR is not an operating system (like RedHat/Linux). Although, I find that ironic since I’ve written before about how I think that the EHR is the operating system of healthcare. […]

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