The W3-EMRS Project

Project Goals

The World-Wide Web Electronic Medical Record System (W3-EMRS) seeks to tame the Tower of Babel in current medical databases.

The primary goal of the W3-EMRS project is to define a common medical record. Then, clinicians will be able to make meaningful queries across patient information databases in multiple hospitals. A physician might use the W3-EMRS to retrieve a unified medical record for a patient who had been seen in several different hospitals and clinics, while a researcher might make queries like "Show me all of the patients who had disease X and received treatment Y." The power of this kind of application requires both a standardization of the structure of the medical record, and of the medical terminology that it uses.

A second goal of W3-EMRS is to use the recently developed world-wide web tools and standards to access and transmit medical records, even within a single hospital information system. Once the appropriate concerns about security have been resolved, we will be able to use the internet for telemedicine applications. Consulting doctors will be able to get actual patient records over the internet, while researchers will be given access to "anonymized" medical records. The special-purpose applications that have traditionally been used in hospital information systems tend to be expensive, have limited custom user interface capabilities, do not interoperate well, and force the hospital to commit to a particular vendor. The world wide web tools will provide the layer of free software, open standards, and multimedia capabilities needed to give electronic medical record systems the flexibility and interoperability required for effective clinical care and medical research.

The final goal is to improve the confidentiality of medical records. Few of the currently deployed electronic medical record systems use state of the art technology to protect patient privacy. For example, many institutions transmit clinical data and passwords as "clear text" over telephone networks to referring providers or satellite clinics. We are working on applying the cryptographic technologies developed to protect the transmission of financial data across the Web to the task domain of patient privacy. We are also actively engaged in examining current practice in the protection of patient privacy in EMRS and alternatives that may be enabled by newer technologies.

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Last modified: Mon Apr 29 17:52:29 EDT 1996


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