Blog Review: Open MRS


The blog reviewed here is ‘Open MRS‘.  Open MRS is an acronym for the Open Medical Record System and is described on the Open MRS website (the main website is found here) as follows:-

OpenMRS is a community-developed, open-source, enterprise electronic medical record system platform. We’ve come together to specifically respond to those actively building and managing health systems in the developing world, where AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria afflict the lives of millions. Our mission is to foster self-sustaining health information technology implementations in these environments through peer mentorship, proactive collaboration, and a code base that equals or surpasses proprietary equivalents

The invitation is made to the reader to contribute to this collaborative effort.

Appearance and Design

There is a white background which takes on a graded beige colour towards the title pane region of the page. The articles appear on the left 4/5’s of the page and articles are demarcated by thick blue lines. On the right hand side of the page, the reader can navigate through the site according to categories (‘what people talk about’), RSS feeds for the site, as well as a list of contributors. Previous articles can be accessed at the foot of the page by clicking on the arrow icon which takes the reader to the next page of articles. These have to be clicked through page by page.



There is no ambiguity here – the articles are highly technical often focusing on the actual code being written within the Open Medical Record System. The blog dates back to October 2005, but the articles start regularly from May 2007. On this page, the author describes the need to create a browser based form for data collection thus outlining a strategic object for the project in a semi-technical language. In an article on this page, Mathew Harrison reviews some useful books for designing open source projects. Vladimir writes his initial thoughts about coding a rule builder for the database. While superficially not sounding particularly interesting to the uninitiated, it is in fact a useful method for giving flexibility to the user in their interactions with the database. The rule builder would enable information to be retrieved from the database and displayed in a specific format. So for instance, they give the example of a list being generated for patients who need their bloods checked that day – logistically speaking this is potentially very useful for a health service. In another post, Matt describes the creation of a layer for allowing mobile phones to access data on the database. With time, more developers are recruited internationally, bringing their skills to bear on the project. Programmer Ime Asangansi joins the project and in an article from April 2nd 2008 describes the modification of an established part of the database interface – Xforms using archetypes. In a June 26th 2008 article the difficulties of correctly identifying patients in the database are discussed and this type of problem recurs in various database applications. At the time of writing version 1.5 of the Open MRS has been released and it is interesting to read about the actions behind the scenes during each part of the development cycle.


This is a highly technical blog about the development of an open source medical database. The blog is interspersed with a number of less technical articles which are able to engage a more general audience. The blog is particularly suited to those with an interest in open source healthcare paradigms as well as those with an interest in health databases. The developers are contributing to a noble cause which hopefully should lead to an improvement in healthcare for people in parts of the world still awaiting highly structured IT healthcare infrastructures with all of their accompanying benefits.


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The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog


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