An Example of EHR as Database of Healthcare

One of my favorite interviews at mHealth Summit was with Alan Portela, CEO of AirStrip Technologies. I’d definitely heard good things about AirStrip, but I must admit that before our meeting I didn’t have a very good understanding of what AirStrip was really all about. I was pleased to learn that they are well deserving of the hype. I believe AirStrip will do wonderful things to help make healthcare data mobile and AirStrip is lucky to have Alan Portela leading the company. Alan is unique when it comes to healthcare IT leaders in that he understands the healthcare culture, but also has a unique vision for how healthcare can embrace the future.

The core of what AirStrip has done to date has been in OB and Cardiology. In fact, each of those areas is worthy of their own post and look into how they’ve changed the game in both of those areas. The OB side speaks to me since we recently had our fourth child. I can imagine how much better the workflow would have been had my wife’s OB had access to the fetal waveforms (CTGs) on her mobile device. Instead, it was left to the nurse to interpret the recordings and communicate them to the OB. There’s real power for an OB to have the data in the palm of their hand.

Similar concepts can be applied to cardiology. Timing is so huge when it comes to the heart and there’s little doubt that mobile access to healthcare data for a cardiologists can save a lot of time from when the data is collected to when the cardiologist interprets the results.

The real question is why did it take so long for someone like AirStrip to make this data mobile. The answer has many complexities, but it turns out that ensuring that the data displays to clinical grade quality is not as easy as one might think. An ECG waveform needs to be much more precise than a graph of steps taken.

While both of these areas are quite interesting, since I’m so embedded in the EHR world I was particularly interested in AirStrip’s move into making EHR data mobile. They’ve started with Meaningful Use Tracker, but based on my conversation with Alan Portela this is just the beginning. AirStrip wants to make your important clinical information mobile.

I pushed Alan on how he’ll be able to do this since so many EHR companies have created big barriers to being able to access their data. Turns out that Alan seems to share my view that EHR is the Database of Healthcare. This idea means that instead of the EHR doing everything for everyone, a whole ecosystem of companies are going to build amazingly advanced functionality on the back of the EHR data and functions.

In AirStrip’s case, they want to take EHR data and make it mobile. They don’t want to store the data. They don’t want to do the advanced clinical decision support. Instead, they want to leverage the EHR data and EHR functionality on a mobile device.

One key to this approach is that AirStrip wants to be able to do this for an organization regardless of which EHR you use on the backend. In fact, Alan argues that most hospital organizations are going to have multiple EHR systems under their purview. As hospitals continue to consolidate you can easily see how one organization is going to have a couple hospitals on Epic, a couple on Cerner, a couple on Meditech, etc. If AirStrip can be the consistent mobile front end for all of the major EHR companies, that’s a powerful value proposition for any hospital organization.

Of course, we’ll see if AirStrip gets that far. Right now they’re taking a smart approach to mobilizing specific clinical data elements. Although, don’t be surprised when they work to mobilize all of an organization’s healthcare data.

AirStrip is just one example of a company that’s using EHR as their database of healthcare data. I’m sure we’re going to see hundreds and thousands of companies who build powerful applications on the back of EHR data.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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.

1 Comment

  • If we’re lucky, you’re right.

    Most current EHRs are data-based, not workflow-based. That is, they are built on models of patient data, not models of workflow generating or using the data. Many of today’s problems with EHR workflow — inappropriate, uncustomizable, difficult to understand (before, during, and after workflow execution) — result from this unfortunate historical fact.

    I used to think the only way to fix this (literally) foundational problem was to rip-and-replace: from traditional EHRs to EHR workflow systems.

    However, if you are right and we are lucky, there are work-arounds. The combination of cloud back-ends with mobile front-ends, plus model-driven environments for drawing applications and workflows, may be just the ticket. They’ll be quicker to create, more conducive to user input (during both design and use), cheaper to deploy, and amazingly scalable. (Throw in social media hooks, and they may also be incredibly viral.)

    It will be interesting to watch how the old and the new get along, don’t get along, absorb each other, etc.

    I wonder if something I tweeted about last week is relevant:

    “Data Gravity”: data attracts services & applications… @datagravity relevance to #healthIT, #EHR s & life science, etc?— Charles Webster, MD (@EHRworkflow) December 9, 2012

    Here’s the Data Gravity link, in case embedding a tweet in a comment doesn’t work…

    Will EHR data attract and “capture” applications and services? What will this mean for purveyors of the newer workaround technologies?

    May we live in interesting times!

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