Biotech Democratized: Open Medical Record System

Credit: Pixabay

Proper management of medical records represents not only a significant technical challenge, but it is also a vital public health tool to ensure proper management of epidemics as well as quality of patient care among other things. In countries with more abundant resources such as the United States, proprietary solutions for managing medical records are the norm, which is perfectly reasonable given that the providers of these solutions are accountable for the security and integrity of the data. However, such solutions are not viable for many nations whose hospitals cannot afford it, and these hospitals may need such systems the most.

Enter the Open Medical Record System (OpenMRS), a completely open source system backed by a community dedicated to enabling the implementation of medical records systems for those who need it the most.

Established in 2004, OpenMRS started off as a system to improve the medical records system for Western Kenya’s Academic Model for Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS (AMPATH). It has grown into an internationally used and widely supported project by both its many volunteers as well as organizations such as Google, The Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organization, among many others.

Places utilizing OpenMRS. Credit:

Programmed in Java, OpenMRS is essentially a web-based electronic medical record, where multiple computers will be able to access data from a common server. Out of the box, it is able to, amongst many other things, receive data easily through simple web-based forms, and store that data securely. Complex forms of data, such as X-Ray images or sound files, can also be stored and linked to specific individuals within the database, and duplicate entries (i.e. one person having two or more separate records) can be easily merged. Further, availability of additional modules expands its functionality even more and enables a high degree of customization on the part of the end user.

How Has its Open Source Nature Helped?

Other than the fact that the OpenMRS community does not seek profit and is driven by a desire to improve healthcare for those unable to afford commercially available medical record systems, OpenMRS benefits immensely from its open source nature for a multitude of reasons. Thanks to its modular architecture, the system benefits from different teams working on different modules, all of which will serve different purposes. Unnecessary development work will be minimized due to work constantly being “pushed” to the central repository, allowing those wishing to create a new module to check if anyone else had already created it.

Most importantly, as developers are able to collaborate with people from different backgrounds and locations, they have the ability to design modules based on real, rather than perceived needs.

OpenMRS stands as an outstanding example of how the open source model has brought together people with both the right expertise and a good heart to create a significant impact on how healthcare is delivered and administered.

More information can be found on their main page ( as well as their wiki (

Biotech Democratized is a segment dedicated to highlighting innovations and teams working towards the advancement of open access biotech and healthcare technologies.