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Applying representational state transfer (REST) architecture to archetype-based electronic health record systems

Erik Sundvall1*, Mikael Nyström1, Daniel Karlsson1, Martin Eneling1, Rong Chen12 and Håkan Örman1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping 581 85, Sweden

2 Cambio Healthcare Systems, Brigadgatan 14, Linköping 587 58, Sweden

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2013, 13:57  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-57

Published: 9 May 2013



The openEHR project and the closely related ISO 13606 standard have defined structures supporting the content of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). However, there is not yet any finalized openEHR specification of a service interface to aid application developers in creating, accessing, and storing the EHR content.

The aim of this paper is to explore how the Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style can be used as a basis for a platform-independent, HTTP-based openEHR service interface. Associated benefits and tradeoffs of such a design are also explored.


The main contribution is the formalization of the openEHR storage, retrieval, and version-handling semantics and related services into an implementable HTTP-based service interface. The modular design makes it possible to prototype, test, replicate, distribute, cache, and load-balance the system using ordinary web technology. Other contributions are approaches to query and retrieval of the EHR content that takes caching, logging, and distribution into account. Triggering on EHR change events is also explored.

A final contribution is an open source openEHR implementation using the above-mentioned approaches to create LiU EEE, an educational EHR environment intended to help newcomers and developers experiment with and learn about the archetype-based EHR approach and enable rapid prototyping.


Using REST addressed many architectural concerns in a successful way, but an additional messaging component was needed to address some architectural aspects. Many of our approaches are likely of value to other archetype-based EHR implementations and may contribute to associated service model specifications.