Global communities building open source Health IT platforms: The OpenMRS experience

Location: E146 Level: Intermediate
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OpenMRS is an open source platform to manage electronic medical records, originally designed in 2004 for use in the developing world but now used in a variety health care and research environments. In this session, you’ll hear from people using OpenMRS and other open source systems to manage health information in everything from small clinics to national health care systems.

While OpenMRS didn’t start out to be an open source project from the beginning, the collaborative needs of physicians in Kenya, Haiti, South Africa, and the US all pointed toward a default model of openness if only to “get work done” in the face of the urgent need of better healthcare in these countries. The modular architecture that evolved has led to an active ecosystem of developers and system implementers who are creating specific tools for different health care needs. As a result, the OpenMRS platform is assisting clinicians and researchers in a wide variety of contexts.

During this talk, you will:

  • Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of an electronic medical record (EMR) platform compared to a self-contained application,
  • Get an introduction of how the OpenMRS community created modular architecture for customizing EMR implementations, and how these modules are shared and improved over time,
  • Hear case studies of how Health IT innovation is accelerated in an open source platform/ecosystem,
  • Understand how small groups have used the OpenMRS platform for individual clinics, and
  • See how countries are implementing open source health IT systems on a national scale.
Photo of Paul Biondich

Paul Biondich


I am a medical informatics researcher and pediatrician whose research interests include informatics interventions in resource constrained environments, decision support systems and controlled medical vocabularies. I am the co-founder and leader of OpenMRS, an open source medical record system platform to support underserved populations, which is currently deployed in over 40 countries throughout the world. I also oversee infomatics activities at the first implementation of OpenMRS: the Academic Model for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV (AMPATH) in Eldoret, Kenya. These projects provide a rich substrate that allows me to study these unique environments and learn the effectiveness of various health informatics interventions applied to these settings. I participate in international architectural development efforts, both through my leadership of a WHO Collaborating Centre in Medical Informatics, and in the formation of a new adaptive technical assistance community that supports national planning and implementation of health information sharing architectures (OpenHIE).

Photo of Burke Mamlin

Burke Mamlin


Dr. Burke Mamlin is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Informatics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Investigator at Regenstrief Institute. His primary career focus is in the development of electronic medical record (EMR) systems, especially clinical provider order entry (CPOE) systems, with a focus on resource poor settings and making those around him successful. Dr. Mamlin is Co-Founder and Chief Software architect for OpenMRS, which collaboratively develops a freely available, medical record system platform presently utilized in over forty countries throughout the world. He helped develop one of the nation’s first CPOE systems and is a technical lead for a new CPOE system being used by Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Mamlin has been designing and programming computer systems in healthcare since the early 1980s and continues to practice medicine and teach medical residents at Indiana University in a community clinic serving underprivileged patients. Some of his idiosyncrasies include naming the weekday given a date, reciting Horton Hears a Who from memory, putting ketchup on his ketchup, and an unwillingness to take life too seriously.

Photo of Hamish Fraser

Hamish Fraser

Partners In Health

Dr. Fraser is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He trained in general Medicine, Cardiology and knowledge based systems in the UK and completed a fellowship in Clinical Decision Making and Cardiology at MIT and the New England Medical Center. As the Director of Informatics and Telemedicine at Partners In Health he leads the development of web-based medical record systems and data analysis tools to support the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV in Peru, Haiti, Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi and the Philippines. The first system developed, the PIH-EMR, has supported the management and monitoring of over 12,000 patients receiving treatment for MDR-TB in Peru. Dr. Fraser has also led the development of the HIV-EMR, which is used to support the treatment of more than 16,000 HIV patients in rural Haiti.

Dr. Fraser is a co-founder with colleagues from the Regenstrief Institute, of an international collaboration to develop flexible, open source medical record systems in developing countries – the OpenMRS collaborative. OpenMRS is now also used to support patient treatment in PIH projects in Rwanda, Lesotho and Malawi and Peru as well as projects in at least ten other countries led by the Regenstrief Institute, the Millennium Villages Project and other organisations. He also leads the development of pharmacy information management systems, and has a strong interest in the evaluation of medical information systems in developing countries.


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