Will Next Generation EMRs Be Platform + Stack of Apps?

For quite some time new — at least a couple of years — mobile apps have been appearing on the market to assist physicians with key portions of their work.  That’s good as far as it goes, but unfortunately, most of these apps don’t work well with EMR systems.

To date, EMR vendors have focused on making sure that their product will help hospitals and health systems achieve Meaningful Use, which is of necessity one of IT’s top prioities.  Mobile apps used to access EMRs are often based on remote access to desktops via Citrix, a solution nobody I’ve spoken with seems to like — especially doctors, most of whom seem to find it quite awkward.

But that approach may end up in the trash heap of history if EMRs evolve as one physician entrepreneur predicts. Dr. Lyle Berkowitz, CMO of a new app company called Healthfinch, believes that EMRs should be platforms upon which multiple apps can be built. (Imagine the EMR as a operating environment like Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android.)

Healthfinch,which retrieves refill requests and delegates them for maximum efficiency,  is running at the  Elmhurst (Ill.) Clinic. Healthfinch is extracting data from Elmhurst’s NextGen EMR, something that NextGen didn’t offer on its own.

From what Berkowitz has seen, EMR vendors Allscripts and Greenwway are “leading the charge” in opening up their platforms to allow third-party vendors to build such apps.  Good on ya, Allscripts and Greenway, but if vendors like Cerner, Epic, Siemens and Meditech aren’t coming to the party yet, the idea of an open API is in its infancy at best.

I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of  an EMR being broken up into objects/apps, in theory at least. Do you think we’re going to see EMRs turn into more of an app stack than a single piece of integrated enterprise software?  And if so, how will it work?

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.


  • If we look at the evolution of various technology platforms, they all go along roughly the same path, as outlined in The Innovator’s Solution (and Prescription) by Clayton Christensen. As a new technology becomes mainstream, it is almost always integrated from end-to-end because the standards, value chains, and business relations have not yet been put in place to allow for modular solutions to accomplish the same goal.

    Going on that train of thought, we are still in the integrated era of EHRs. As a technology enthusiast, I would like to believe that things will modularize, but I believe that digitizing medicine is one of the hardest technology challenges because there is so much fragmentation. That fragmentation and complexity may make it very difficult for EHRs to every truly modularize.

  • MD Idea Lab is building NervCell, a next generation social EMR patfform + app stack, at the University of Massachusetts’s Venture Development Center. If you want to be involved in any capacity contact us through our websites, mdidealab.com or nervcell.com. We are looking for test sites, advisers, and funding.

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