Shareable Ink

Ever since HIMSS (still seems like yesterday, but was really a month and a half ago), I’ve been wanting to do a writeup about the company Shareable Ink. A number of people asked me at the show what the most innovative thing I’d seen at HIMSS was and my most common answer was Shareable Ink.

The interesting thing about Shareable Ink is that they provide such an interesting middle ground between a technical solution and continuation of paper. I remember about 5 years ago when I heard someone describe the perfect clinical documentation system. It was completely flexible. Required little to no training. Supported every possible documentation style. etc etc etc. Then, they acknowledged that what was being described was the paper chart. It was then that I recognized that while EMR can provide some benefits that paper charts can’t provide, paper charts also had some advantages that would be difficult to provide using an EMR. (See also this post about EMR’s being designed as more than a paper chart).

I think this background is why I found the Shareable Ink approach to documentation so fascinating. I really see it as an interesting way to try and capture the benefits of granular data elements and electronic capture of the data while still enjoying the benefits of paper.

My simplified explanation of the Shareable Ink technology is as follows. You print out a form that you want to use for the patient visit. Each page that’s printed out has a unique background (although it just looks like a colored page to the naked eye). When you use the Shareable Ink pen to write on the printed out page, the pen uses a camera to record what you wrote on that page and where you wrote it. Then, once you sync the pen it recreates the document you wrote on in the system.

It also has some really interesting advanced functionality as far as being able to do check boxes on the printed out form and even will convert your handwriting into text on the electronic document if you wish. I’m certainly not doing all of the features justice in this description, but I think you get the general idea. It’s a pretty cool demo if you get a chance to see it. I wish they had some videos on their website of it in action so I could show you. (UPDATE: Stephen from Shareable Ink sent my this link to a YouTube video of it in action. I’d like to see a few more specific examples of it in action like I saw at HIMSS, but it does do a pretty good job of showing some of what I described above.)

I think they’re also taking a smart approach to the market. Their strategy was to focus on areas of healthcare that were slow to go electronic: Anestheiologists, Emergency Room, Hospitalists and ambulatory Physicians. A smart plan since this hybrid paper/electronic system might get those that love their paper off the fence and into the digital world.

I do have some concern about how well this would do over the arc of the day. How often would there be issues with a pen that frustrates the providers? How much work is it to print off the sheets for each patient? How well could this integrate with an EMR (although, I’d love to see it used with a number of the “Hybrid” EHR vendors out there)? Not to mention, how will the syncing of the pen work? Will it sync flawlessly every time or will you have a bunch of doctors wondering where the documents are/were since the pen didn’t synch for some reason?

I’ll be keeping an eye on Shareable Ink and how well they do. There’s certainly an existing market of users that love their paper and so I’ll be interested to see how these doctors like Shareable Ink’s technology.

An interesting side note is that I find it interesting that Shareable Ink left the Boston area and moved their headquarters to Nashville, TN. Very interesting move I think.

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.


  • It could actually. It would need to be paired with another software to meet some of the requirements, but it’s definitely possible.

  • Interesting company. I like the fact that the solution provided by Shareable Ink takes a doctor’s work flow into consideration. It is very apparent that disruption to regular workflow (i.e., implementing the use of tablets or other electronic devices) is a barrier to adoption of EHRs. It sounds like Shareable Ink is able to address this.

  • John,

    We appreciate your kind words.

    Here is a great YouTube demo of our technology in action: produced by T-System, our partner and a ED documentation vendor with 1,700 hospital customers.

    The good news is that we’ve making many customers successful with our unique approach. Further, because our software is web-based, we can get customers “up and running” very quickly.


  • Thanks Stephen. I’ve updated the post with a link to the YouTube video.

    A web based software is good, but I think you’re really going to hit the sweet spot when you’re integrated into a number of other EMR software. I’ll be interested to see which paths you take.

  • John, I saw a similar device from Satori Labs in action at an Allscripts User meeting 2 years ago. Satori Labs has recently announced that they are distributing this digital pen exclusively through Nextgen. I can’t wait till it shows up in our domain. For a specialist, it is a really cook way to get the discrete data in the system and at the same time gather the “richness” of the patient’s story for future use.

  • Hi John thanks for a good post as always. Steve, I have a question for you; I saw this through (as always) John’s post almost 6 months ago and brought it up to our Architect. He thought it was cool and wanted to do the integration as another way of capturing the patient encounter. But our Strategy Officer brought up a valid point; ‘although its easy to use and Providers will feel comfortable, this may not be of much use while you are using the Clinical Decision Support System built into the EHR’; to which we agreed that capturing data in an EHR is one thing. While capturing the data how can we make it efficient in terms of interactive decision support systems?

  • I think this technology has a limited, but useful role.

    First, why it’s limited. Data once captured by the pen has to be docked to be loaded into the EMR system.

    If the system had a Bluetooth capability, for example, it could send its data instantly to the EMR opening up many possibilities, but it does not. Its more of a batch system.

    Consequently, all captured data is after the fact. Alerts, etc., are not part of an encounter. While the pen – and I admire what they’ve done – may be smart, paper is still dumb.

    As for the limited, but useful role: replacing those awful forms you fill out while sitting in the waiting room. Once you fill it in, it’s either typed in or just put in the file. This would create something that would be easy for all patients to fill out, but eliminate duplicate entries.

    Finally, this is an update of traditional OCR technology. About 15 years ago, I created a smart form OCR based system for major hospital’s neonatal ICU department.

    The form had scanned checkboxes, radio buttons and importantly, readable block text. The physicians filled it in as they reviewed a patient and we scanned it in to our database. Turnaround was in minutes. It was much better than free hand entries, but lacked any interactivity. Shareable ink’s is orders of magnitude better, but its still working after the fact.

  • @Anthony Subbiah:

    We provide the user with feedback, which can include decision support. Docking the pen at a web-enabled PC simultaneously launches a web application which can contain alerts and queries based on the doctor’s handwritten information.

  • @ Carl Bergman, We have a Bluetooth streaming (real-time) capability. That said, see my note to Anthony Subbiah. We provide a batch-based alerting capability that has been surprisingly effective at eliciting the correct physician behavior. Most clinicians respond with 60 seconds of the alert.

  • Stephen, good to know about Bluetooth. Being able, if that is the case, to input into the EMR as you fill in the form is most interesting and something I would love to see.

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