openEHR is a virtual community working on interoperability and computability in e-health. Its main focus is electronic patient records (EHRs) and systems. openEHR is maintained by the openEHR Foundation, a non-profit foundation that supports the research, development, and implementation of openEHR standard EHRs. It was developed using 15 years of European and Australian organizations that shared the common goals of successfully implementing an open source electronic health record. The founders of openEHR consist of the University College London, UK and Ocean Informatics Pty Ltd, Australia. openEHR is designed as a framework that uses the concept of an information archetype. Through archetypes openEHR tries to achieve two levels of modelling for clinical information. These two dimensions are the scope and the kind of subject as shown in figure 2 (Under Graphics).

openEHR is also designed to support any number of interconnected systems that share the properties of the archetypes that describe the form and nature of the clinical data. This division of access allows entities with different relevancy levels to access different levels of the archetype which can end up ultimately at clinical data if that person or entity should have that access.

What is openEHR?

Think of //open//EHR as the open source health equivalent of the iPod/iPhone platform – a technical framework which will allow any compatible application, organization or provider to share ‘plug and play’ access to standardized data. This is openEHR’s innovation – the focus on ensuring that the underlying health data is correct, robust and trustworthy!(

openEHR Vision

The openEHR Foundation vision is of a world in which healthcare routinely obtains benefit from ICT, in particular:
  • life-long interoperable electronic health records (EHRs);
  • computing on EHRs to improve the quality of health care and research.

openEHR Mission

The Foundation is proceeding on the basis of three principles: rigor, engagement and trust. These correspond to the key activities of the Foundation, organized under the four Programs:
  • Specification Program:
    • developing rigorous, open specifications, validated by implementation;
    • participating in international standards development;
  • Clinical Models Program:
    • developing clinical models (archetypes and templates), terminology interfaces;
    • engaging in clinical implementation projects;
  • Software Program:
    • developing open-source software and tools;
    • participating in connectathons and implementation trials;
  • Localization Program:
    • advocacy and locale-based education and dissemination;
    • working with national standards organizations;
All of openEHR Programs will support health informatics education.

openEHR Outcome

  • Systems and tools for computing health information at a semantic level, allowing for proper analytic functions like decision support and research querying to become more predominant in the healthcare industry.


Applying this open standard can prove to be highly beneficial. Right now there is a lack of cohesion in the EHR market. A lot of the EHRs being adopted suffer from the Best of Breed syndrome. That is, people are adopting the most popular and dominant programs because of their popularity and they have no compatibility with each other. This is a bad habit exhibited by a lot of popular, non open-source, software vendors today. openEHR addresses this problem and sets a guideline of specifications to follow. This will ensure interoperability and compatibility among the software applications that adhere to this open standard.

The framework behind the openEHR community consists of four programs designed to focus on specifications, clinical modelling, software and localization. The first three programs consist of the primary types of output by the community as a whole. All of the work is performed by community members. *A lightweight system of governance, influenced by the governance systems of Apache Foundation and the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization (IHTSDO), has been defined to enable defensible decision-making*.

The technical approach handled by openEHR is multilevel modelling within a software architecture in which models built by experts are in their own layer. What this allows for, is experts such as clinicians and health workers to be directly involved in the defining of the semantics in clinical information systems while making terminology easier to use. These models have been implemented by several national governments to specify national e-health information standards.

An App Platform for an App World

Strategically, the openEHR approach enables a platform-based e-health software market, in which vendors and developers of back-end and front-end solutions interface via standardized information, standardized content models and terminology, and standardized service interfaces. This gives procurement stakeholders new choices. It also allows app developers to concentrate on their apps, and simply plug in to a reliable back-end.

Specification Program

The Specifications Program defines the formal models and languages defining openEHR data, openEHR content models (archetypes and templates) and openEHR services and APIs. These specifications are published and used in their own right and also underpin the Clinical Modelling Program (for which they provide the language of archetypes) and the Software Program (for which they provide schemas and interface definitions for software).

Clinical Models Program

The work of the Clinical Modelling Program is performed largely by clinical professionals and health informatics experts working on the Clinical Knowledge Manager (CKM), building archetypes which act as international standards for re-usable content. These archetypes can be used by national and local programs, and are the basis for building templates, from which software artifacts are generated by tooling.

Software Program

The Software Program is responsible for the development of open source reference implementations of both tooling and information system components. Such components can be freely used by openEHR implementers to build their own tooling and systems, and are available under the industry-friendly Apache 2 license. The software program performs another very important job: ensuring the implementing of all specifications.

Localization Program

Bringing the technical outputs of the other programs to the real world is the job of the Localization Program, which works in a distributed fashion around the world, generally in collaboration with local, regional and national standards groups, as well as industry and academic groups. The Localization Program aims to make the outputs of openEHR available and usable in local languages and within diverse healthcare cultures and funding environments.


Electronic Health Record (EHR): an individual patient's medical record in digital format.
Best of Breed: often a dominant software in it's market that has low information quality and exchange problems.

Web Resources:

openEHR Website
What on earth is openEHR?



external image aims2.gif
external image aimsa.gif