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EMR, EHR, PHR, HIE…WHY? Acronyms on the front line of care

When people in the healthcare industry ask us, “What is Elation?”, they’re often expecting us to respond with an acronym. The healthcare industry relies on an alphabet soup of acronyms to define various product categories. Within the Health IT space alone, you have EMR, EHR, PHR, HIE, REC, and many more. Exploring where these acronyms came from, and where Elation fits in, says a lot about how the healthcare industry works, and what problems within it we’re trying to solve.

Acronyms in Health IT are created by highly intelligent, well-intentioned people who work far from the front line of care. They use those acronyms to define products they think will meet healthcare industry needs. It’s an approach that may make sense in theory, but in practice puts the cart before the horse.

In most industries, markets are only defined after a product defining that market is successful. For example, the success of Facebook defined the social networking space, and the success of Google defined search advertising. In health IT, however, markets are often defined before any product in the market has been proven successful. As a result, many product categories struggle to find adoption, in large part because the idea of the product being a real solution for a real customer was defined as a theoretical exercise from above. They fall down, unfortunately, when they are brought to market and face patients, physicians and other healthcare providers on the front line of care.

Consider EHR’s, HIE’s and PHR’s. These have been defined as separate, standalone products. As a result, entrepreneurs and industry leaders have followed that lead and built each separately. From a physician’s perspective, however, it would make sense to have a single product that serves their administrative and informational needs. If providers want to exchange information about a patient, do they need to leave their EHR and use a HIE? If they then want to give patients access and control over their records, should they then go purchase a separate PHR? In the current health care system, providers use them all. Once deployed, these products rarely work together well. No surprise, given they were designed and built as separate pieces.

When we started building Elation Health, rather than looking at existing product categories and trying to fit ourselves into them, we went to our end users—physicians— learned what they really needed, and then carefully designed a product that served those needs. We made sure we complied with the industry guidelines all physicians must meet, but we never let those guidelines get in the way of building a product that is useful for a physician.

Elation is creating a technology platform to help physicians and clinicians manage all aspects of patient care from one place. Technically speaking, this makes us an EMR, an EHR, a PHR, a registry too. But from a physician’s perspective, it’s a single coherent product – a place to collect, view and understand the entire story of a patient’s health. Call it whatever you want; what matters is that it enables physicians to do their best work.