What the EMR Industry Can Learn From Facebook

Posted on April 9, 2012 I Written By

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 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.