Modular EHR

Electronic Health Records and the Management of Women at High Risk of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Brian Drohan, MS,* Elissa M. Ozanne, PhD,and Kevin S. Hughes, MD

*Department of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Massachusetts; Institute for Technology Assessment, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts; and Avon Breast Evaluation Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts

Abstract: Currently, management strategies exist that can decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Unfortunately, the task of identifying these patients at high risk is a daunting challenge. This problem is intensified because Electronic Health Records (EHRs) today lack the functionality needed to identify these women and to manage those women once they have been identified. Numerous niche software programs have been developed to fill this gap. Unfortunately, these extremely valuable niche programs are prevented from being interoperable with the EHRs, on the premise that each EHR vendor will build their own programs. Effectively, in our efforts to adopt EHRs, we have lost sight of the fact that they can only have a major impact on quality of care if they contain structured data and if they interact with robust Clinical Decision Support (CDS) tools. We are at a cross roads in the development of the health care Information Technology infrastructure. We can choose a path where each EHR vendor develops each CDS module independently. Alternatively, we can choose a path where experts in each field develop external niche software modules that are interoperable with any EHR vendor. We believe that the modular approach to development of niche software programs that are interoperable with current EHRs will markedly increase the speed at which useful and functional EHRs that improve quality of care become a reality. Thus, in order to realize the benefits of CDS, we suggest vendors develop means to become interoperable with external modular niche programs.

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