Happy 50th Birthday To Our Friend The EMR

If someone asked you how long it’s been since someone lit up an EMR, what would your guess be?  Five years?  Ten? Even 20? What if I suggested that the first EMR was installed 50 years ago in an Akron hospital?

According to IBM, the first EMR was rolled out at Akron’s Childrens Hospital in February 1962.  In Big Blue’s own words:

Though Dr. Lawrence L. Weed is credited for developing the first electronic medical record, the so-called Problem-Oriented Medical Information System (Promis), starting in 1969. But IBM, working with Akron’s Children’s Hospital, implemented a system years earlier that would be the grand-daddy of today’s EMR.

Other early players in EMR evolution included doctors at the University of Vermont, whose PROMIS system and later the POMR (problem-oriented medical record) followed in the late 1960s, as well as the Mayo Clinic. Still, it seems we may have IBM and a pioneering children’s hospital to thank for much of what we discuss so passionately here today.

By the way, it’s interesting to note that while the technology has evolved in astounding ways, the EMR as a concept hasn’t changed nearly as much.  For example, even back then execs were noting that nurses were spending far more time handling paper than they needed to (and that one patient could generate 50 forms, a number which I’d bet still hasn’t changed). It’s amazing that a problem we defined 50 years ago still defies easy solutions, but there you have it.

Meanwhile, courtesy of Scribd, check out the actual IBM press release  on the subject (typed on an oldie-but-goodie typewriter):

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • Can’t think of any clearer demonstration of EMR’s failure to live up to its promise. 50 years later and we’re still spending more time with the EMR than patients. Those pioneers would be very sorry to see the state of affairs today.

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