What the EMR Industry Can Learn From Facebook

A couple of interesting posts on RangelMD.com caught my eye (one of them by way of KevinMD, but I’ve learned to go to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, for everything I read on KevinMD). In his first post on a Facebook model for EMR, Chris Rangel takes us through a generic history of the Internet – right from the days when you had to manually connect to a server through the green-on-black Bulletin Board Services and modem in order to access any information. Apparently servers were not connected to one another and you had to hangup the connection in order to server hop.

(If I sound clueless about this, well, I grew up in India where circa 1995, some kind of UNIX based primitive mail system was all the rage, and since my friends and I didn’t really know anyone outside our immediate circles who had access to “electronic mail”, our forays consisted of sitting in adjacent terminals and mailing each other funny jokes.)

And then came the evolution of HTML and dynamic server content, and so on, till we finally reached the clouds, literally. Ours is an age where most of the information we use resides on a server somewhere and the mode of accessing them is through apps or browsers.

Using Facebook as an example, Rangel explains why we would want our EMR systems to work the same way – our health records should be automatically pushed down to a server every time we have a healthcare encounter. For physicians or pharmacists, all they would need to do is to access our information through a browser or an app on a tablet. In theory, this should make for more efficient healthcare encounters, higher sharing of information, and easy switches from one doctor’s office or facility to another.

Healthcare utopia, no? No. At least not yet.

We have so much more work to do before communication between health silos in various doc offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs etc is truly functional. If 90s style browser wars (where did Netscape go?) and the social networking wars (FB, MySpace, Diapsora, Hot or Not) are anything to go by, the winner of the healthcare battles may not be the one or two well-known entities that dominate the market today, but disruptive companies that are currently developing something we deem frivolous now, but which may hold the key to our digihealth future.

About the author


Priya Ramachandran

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.


  • A few months ago, I wrote a blog that asked, “What if Facebook and Amazon Built an EMR?” to stimulate some debate and creative thinking about EMR user interfaces and overall software architecture. Today’s EMRs are all basically the same because the same people and ideas keep rotating around the vendor industry. EMRs are also somewhat constrained by our archaic billing processes, but that’s no excuse for the poor state of incestuous products.

    The EMR industry would do well to hire some product managers and programmers from the Silicon Valley and give them free creative rein.

  • Matthieu,
    I’ll take the bait, I’m not quite sure how the mobile app you link to fits into the workflow of a physician. Is it tied to EHR software? When would they use this mobile app instead of just charting directly into their EHR software?

  • – Because it is mobile (can be used through a tablet/smartphone) and because it is flexible (the physician choses the charts he needs, and he can even get tailored charts), this app easily fits the physician workflow.
    – The app is linked to a EHR service (the Espresso MD) which allows the data to be exported and stored (in the Cloud)
    – Physicians would use it either because they don’t have an EHR software, or because their EHR is not as mobile, or as intuitive.

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