Challenge of Storing and Sharing EMR Data

Posted on June 15, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today, I came across the best description I’ve seen of the difficulty of storing healthcare information and also making that information shareable with another EMR in a way that is meaningful.

Longitudinal patient information is arguably one of the most temporally and spatially complex information sets known. Certainly GIS and others are complex as well but the science of medicine and therefore healthcare is constantly changing creating a moving context. To understand how to treat a patient the healthcare provider needs to be able to understand what has worked as well as what hasn’t worked in the context of what was known about the patient and the treatments available at any point in time. This creates an environment of very complex data relationships. If any one of those relationships are broken then the semantic context of the data is lost and now there is a loss of information. Data items need to be bundled and stored as a complete unit of understanding for them to constitute information. Once broken apart into separate data items they are much like Humpty Dumpty.

Certainly the above description describes the challenge of storing and sharing both the healthcare information and the context of that healthcare information. I still can’t help but think that we need to simplify our goals for EMR data sharing into small achievable goals.

The above description also kind of reminds me of my previous post about the “Body of Medical Knowledge Too Complex for the Human Mind.” The description above reinforces this challenge as well.