OpenMRS Created With AHRQ Resources

Health IT
May 2011

AHRQ-funded studies in the 1990s on electronic order writing and computer reminders helped to inform and inspire a growing, global open-source medical record system community known as OpenMRS. This community is impacting health care delivery in many developing countries, as well as in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

AHRQ-funded research by William Tierney, MD, and his colleagues at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, identified factors that were important to the design and successful implementation of electronic medical record (EMR) systems. They used this research as a central contribution towards the development of OpenMRS, a multi-institution, nonprofit collaborative, which produces a free medical record system platform over the Internet for developing countries.

OpenMRS enables the design of customized medical records systems with no programming knowledge necessary. Medical and systems analysis knowledge, however, is required. It is a common platform upon which medical informatics efforts in developing countries can be built. As of 2011, more than 50 countries are using the system, which was first envisioned in late 2004 and first implemented in Eldoret, Kenya, in 2006.

Tierney's colleague Paul Biondich, MD, MS, is a leader and champion of OpenMRS. He notes, "The number of patient records supported by the system is in the millions. AHRQ really intellectually supported the early work that helped make OpenMRS successful. The implementations of OpenMRS are broad and growing, and they are making a difference."

Some recent examples include the following:

  • eHealth Nigeria is implementing OpenMRS to improve maternal and child health.
  • The government of Rwanda is implementing OpenMRS on a national level, beginning with 250 clinics and small hospitals; 10,000 patients are already in the system.
  • Instances of tuberculosis in homeless patients in Los Angeles are being tracked through an OpenMRS system.
  • After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, an expansion of OpenMRS at 12 clinics and hospitals includes a stronger focus on primary care and women's health, as well as the creation of a surgical EMR system.

In addition to these recent examples, OpenMRS has been credited for improving HIV care in Kenya through computer-generated reminders for overdue CD4 tests. It has also been responsible for improving efficiency and quality of care for HIV patients in Uganda by enabling providers to spend more time with patients and creating reduced overall patient visit time.

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Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Research
Geographic Location: Haiti, Nigeria, Rwanda
Implementer: OpenMRS Consortium
Date: 05/01/2011

Rotich JK, Hannan TJ, Smith FE, Bii J, Odero WW, Vu N, Mamlin BW, Mamlin JJ, Einterz RM, Tierney WM. Installing and implementing a computer-based patient record system in sub-Saharan Africa: The Mosoriot Medical Record System. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2003; (10): 293-303.

Page last reviewed October 2014