Could Amazon or Facebook Build A Better EMR?

Posted on February 18, 2011 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 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.

As we all know, few EMRs are a breeze to use.  In fact, many have such awkward, counterintuitive UIs that they ought to be thrown back into the pond.

On the other hand, superstar consumer apps like Facebook and Amazon have hooked people by the millions with intuitive, logical interface designs that simply addict users.  (And let’s not forget Apple, whose gift for consumer design has vaulted it from has-been to trend setter for the world.)

One CIO, Dale Sanders of the Cayman Island Health Authority, has taken these  examples and run with them, making what seems like a very strong argument in favor of the these giants’ approach:

In Facebook, we have a perfect framework for longitudinal documentation, collaboration, messaging, and scheduling between a patient and members of their entire care team, including family and friends.

We also have a framework for easily integrating data from other sources to enhance the value to the patient’s healthcare – there’s no equivalent of HL7 interchange going on in Facebook.  It references data located in other sources and systems. Can you imagine Facebook surviving if it required itself to house all the data that it presents?  Facebook takes great advantage of referencing and pointing to data in the source systems.

In Amazon, we have a perfect and familiar metaphor for ordering tests and procedures; tracking them; assessing their costs; rating them and seeing how other clinicians rated those orderables and referrals; and adjusting orders based on the behaviors and ratings of other clinicians, etc.

What makes his thoughts more interesting is that he actually marks up screenshots of key Amazon and Facebook pages, commenting directly on aspects he thinks EMR vendors could adopt.  It’s a thought-provoking exercise:  I recommend you check it out.