AHRQ: Open source EHR improves care in developing nations

Global nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH) helped develop an open source electronic health record system that is improving care in developing countries, as well as in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, according to an announcement from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The system, known as OpenMRS, was developed in collaboration with the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, and was inspired by Regenstrief research funded by AHRQ that identified factors vital to EHR design and implementation.

Among the uses of the system:

  • In Rwanda, PIH has worked in three rural districts, using OpenMRS in three hospitals and 37 health centers where it provides decision support for clinicians managing HIV care for the population of 800,000 people. PIH is working with the Rwandan government to roll out the system at more than 200 clinics across the country and to support primary care and management of chronic diseases, such as heart failure.
  • In Malawi, PIH, with local partner nonprofit Baobab Healthcare, developed a touchscreen system for patient tracking. OpenMRS helps manage HIV patient care in 12 facilities there and in seven clinics in Lesotho.
  • In Lima, Peru, OpenMRS data management tools help track the spread of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
  • In Haiti, OpenMRS's TB-tracking tools are used, as well as in a pilot of a point-of-care primary care EMR at Lascahobas Hospital. It's working to open a 312-bed teaching hospital in the town of Mirebalai, where it plans to use OpenMRS as well.

A study published recently at PLOS Medicine highlighted the challenges of implementing a different open source records system in Malawi, where HIV, TB and malaria are common. Those challenges included power outages and the need to coexist with a paper-based system while researchers worked with government to develop a reliable way to track disease.

A book on the challenges of supporting innovative health technologies globally, "Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation: Intersections between Public Health, Intellectual Property and Trade," from the World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization and World Trade Organization, is expected to be of particular interest to developing countries that face increasing calls for action.

Meanwhile, AHRQ also recently reported "significant progress" on 16 projects that won grants in 2007 aimed at patient-centered care and ambulatory care. The projects were focused on patient self-management, providing access to medical information, patient-clinician communication and shared decision-making.

To learn more:
- here's the AHRQ announcement