News Feature | July 16, 2014

Why Your Healthcare IT Customer Needs A Better Search Engine

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

Health IT Search Engines

It’s a simple fact of the current state of healthcare that most providers are not using the data they gather via EHRs as best they could.

The case of missed technological opportunities is nothing new to healthcare, but in the case of search engines, not employing them to mine existing information could be costing your clients, and their patients, unnecessary tests, wasted time, and missed information that would have been helpful in achieving desired patient outcomes.

Search And EHR

The premise behind implementing search engine technology in the area of EHRs is simple. Any provider that has access to a patient’s electronic records has a wealth of data available to them. Unfortunately, most of this data still exists in a state that has to be manually pulled or manipulated if a clinician is looking to get a picture of a patient’s holistic medical history. Medical histories regularly being extensive, having to do the legwork of manual search is often perceived as more difficult than simply sending the patient for a brand new battery of tests.

Search In The Emergency Department

A study published by the Journal Of The American College Of Radiology titled “Optimizing Emergency Department Imaging Utilization Through Advanced Health Record Technology” addresses the application of search functions to clinical environments, specifically the emergency department (ED). This department presents special challenges because of the nature of the work involving evaluating complex patients while under time pressure. These challenges are made worse by the incomplete medical history that typically comes with patients who enter the department.

The Solution

The study covers QPID, which is a programmable health record intelligence system that adds semantic search and knowledge management layers to an EHR system. QPID works as an extension of its data repository, facilitating extraction from it. While most EHR systems do include databases that handle rudimentary data retrieval, QPID allows users to pull data by topic-related “packages” of data and concepts in saved, operable queries that can be used on both structured and unstructured data sources.

So for example, if a doctor would like to be able to search the concept of “abscess” with text and additional EHR data, QPID can do so, by creating a group of terms and concepts such as “fever,” “white blood cell count,” or “antibiotic administration” to provide for automated information retrieval.


Systems like QPID offer four distinct and significant advantages over manual EHR searches:

  • Near instantaneous searches of the entire EHR on the basis of a clinical question, such as “I wonder if the patient has a history of pulmonary embolism mentioned in the EHR”
  • The automation of complex, structured queries on the basis of clinical service schedule or care unit census (such as searching the entire medical intensive care unit for the administration of proton pump inhibitors)
  • The ability to easily integrate the results of a search into a web browser or other software application
  • The ability to measure reproducible context-specific stimulus-response patterns of clinicians responding to presentation of EHR information

Going Deeper

Solutions providers interested in reading the results, and more details on the QPID study, can access the report here.