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Is MUMPS the Major Healthcare Interoperability Problem?

Posted on November 11, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Jeremy Bikman from KATALUS Advisors wrote this interesting comment on a LinkedIn discussion I was participating in:

Perhaps there is a place for MUMPS but only if healthcare continues to thumb its nose at the prevailing technology trends. It’s hard for me to envision healthcare to continue to embrace a technology that doesn’t like to play nicely with other non-MUMPS systems. If there were real advantages to it you would see a fair number of high tech firms utilizing it (Facebook, salesforce.com, Twitter, Spotify, etc).

If your goal is to have an enterprise system with a database that has some scale to it and certainly has good speed, and you don’t really care about interoperability with other systems, then MUMPS is certainly a good viable option. But IMO, the days of healthcare IT being insular, and moving out of phase with the rest of the tech world, are numbered.

I found this comment incredibly interesting. Mostly because I’ve never personally believed that the fact that many of the larger healthcare IT and EMR systems are built on MUMPS was any part of the reason why healthcare entities aren’t interoperable. I’m a tech guy by background, but I’ve never worked on a MUMPS software system myself so I don’t have first hand knowledge of MUMPS in particular. However, it seems wrong to “blame” MUMPS on the lack of healthcare data interoperability.

I guess the way I look at it is that no matter which database back end you have, you’re always going to need some front end interface to take care of the transport of the healthcare data to another system. Is this any harder with MUMPS than another SQL or even NOSQL database? From my experience it shouldn’t matter. I’d love to hear if there are reasons why it is harder.

I also don’t want to give the impression that Jeremy is trying to say that MUMPS is the only reason that healthcare IT has been so insular and closed. I’m pretty sure he agrees with me that a lot of other factors that have stopped healthcare from sharing data. I just don’t believe that MUMPS is one of those reasons.

Of course, the question of whether MUMPS should continue in healthcare is a different question. In fact, I wrote about MUMPS in healthcare IT and EMR here.

What are your thoughts? Is MUMPS the problem with healthcare interoperability? What are the other reasons stopping healthcare interoperability?

Update: Jeremy Bikman provided the following clarifying comment in the comments of this post:
Good points John. I really should have clarified. MUMPS is not really the issue (although I still stand by my assertion that if it was such a superior technology you’d see it all over Silicon Valley, RTP, etc). The main issue is really with the walled garden (w/ razor wire and machine guns along the top) approach of the major EMR/HIS vendors that have it as their foundation.

The more control you exert over your clients and the harder you make it to connect with other systems, the more money you can make…at least in the short-term.

John’s thought: I still look forward to the discussion around MUMPS and interoperability and healthcare interoperability in general.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if….

Posted on June 7, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many long time readers of EMR and HIPAA will know I like to call big, bulky, old EMR software systems, Jabba the Hutt EMR. I think comparing these old legacy EMR software to Jabba the Hutt is a great comparison. For those that don’t know Star Wars that well (and I’m no expert), Jabba the Hutt was a very powerful figure. Although, over time he’d grown so big that he wasn’t very nimble (to say the least). So, despite his power and prestige, there was little to admire about him.

Does that sound a bit like some legacy EMR software? They’re big and powerful figures in the industry. However, their software has grown to the point that it’s clunky and not very nimble. Getting something changed on it is difficult and it’s built on a platform that makes it hard to add new features. Thus, they are Jabba the Hutt EMR.

Without naming names, here’s a list of things that will help you identify the Jabba the Hutt EMR software.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your interface looks like it’s from the 80’s.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
you use a non SQL database.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
you’re better at marketing than programming.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
you cludged together your PMS that you bought from someone else.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your interface looks more like DOS than Windows.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your diagnosis description is restricted to 50 characters.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your EMR salespeople don’t know your EMR developers who don’t know your EMR customer service people.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
iPad interface….what’s that?

I think it’s worth noting that having one or two of these things doesn’t absolutely mean an EMR vendor is a Jabba the Hutt EMR vendor. Although, the more of the above characteristics an EMR vendor has, the more you should look into it.

I hope others will add to this list in the comments.