The History of Electronic Health Records (EHR)

By Matthew Kopetsky

Hippocrates mandated the first known medical records in the fifth centry B.C. so that records could be passed on to other physicians. 2400 years later, medical records went digital. Today, the Electronic Health Records (EHR) market is very complex (the Electronic Medical Records [EMR] market even more so). On a regular basis I try to help the Health Systems that I work with to determine if their current system is effective enough and which software program can provide their operational silver bullet. How did we get here? To better answer this question, I created the following timeline, summarizing the humble, yet revolutionary, beginnings of Electronic Health Records.

EHR History Timeline

The History of Electronic Health Records (EHR) Development Timeline


  1. Epic Systems: An Epic timeline
  2. Problem-Oriented Medical Information Systems
  3. Medical Records that Guide and Teach (Weed)
  4. NASBHC – History of EMR
  5. NIH – Electronic Health Records Overview
  6. Computer Stored Ambulatory Record (COSTAR)
  7. Regenstrief Medical Record System (RMRS)
  8. The Medical Record (TMR)
  10. Composite Health Care System
  11. VistA
  12. Technicon Data Systems
  13. Allscripts
  14. eClinicalWorks News
Readers: If EMRs have been around since the 60’s, why is it taking so long to fully integrate electronic health information management into the care environment?
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About Matthew
Grew up in New Berlin, WI, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and currently resides in Denver, CO.

3 Responses to The History of Electronic Health Records (EHR)

  1. Tom Best says:

    Great post, Matthew! In answering your question to readers…

    There are many factors that impede full EMR integration, but here are three:

    - Delivering effective healthcare requires a different skill set than designing and using I.T., although there is more overlap in recent years.
    - Displaying health information well requires arguably more advanced EMRs than those early EMRs which only store health information well.
    - Paying for a new EMR means not paying for something else, and there are plenty of groups competing for healthcare delivery’s (often slim) marginal profits.

  2. I would argue that it is not the EPR (emphasis on the ‘record’ part of the name) that is resisting its adoption but rather the system that under pins it. EPR’s benefits are only appreciated when there is a comprehensive infrastructure that supports is from primary-tertiary healthcare. In isolation its effect is limited and its value compromised if health care transactions (read consultations) are not included. Much like a train service is most effective when there is a railway network, with schedules, and supported by bus services from transport nodes, and common understanding of its usefulness.

  3. LuAnn Craner says:

    Thanks for the timeline and the info. I needed it for a test and couldn’t find the answers anywhere else in such a useful diagram. Thanks Again!

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