Happy 50th Birthday To Our Friend The EMR

Posted on February 27, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

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):