September 2, 2019

Patient Name Display (EHR Conventions)


At this time, I advocate the following for the display of patient names in electronic health records.

These conventions are intended for displaying information that healthcare workers consume.

These are strongly based upon the NHS CUI Patient Name Input and Display Guidelines (further details on this post).

Watch this article as a video

Example of patient name displayed in the EHR




FAMILY NAME(s), Given Name(s)


Family Name(s):

  • displayed in uppercase
  • multiple family names joined with a hyphen or a space
  • the debate around if the Family Name should be in uppercase is in further detail on the article: Patient Name, uppercase family name debate.
  • In the case of Family Name prefixes (e.g. “von” “Mc” or “de la”) lower case or mixed case is acceptable.

Given Name(s)

  • displayed in title case
  • multiple given names may be separated with a hyphen or single space
  • in the OpenMRS data model we are storing other middle names under the 'middle_name field'


  • Family name and given name are separated with a comma

Order: Must display in the order: Family Name, Given Name


This does not specify how the name needs to be styled.

Adding some character spacing within the family name may help improve its clarity.

There are also times when it may be advantageous to increase the line weight of the family name.

However, neither character spacing, nor line weight, are necessary to follow the minimum patient name conventions.

What this does not include

Title is absent

The NHS CUI guidelines include a title after the given name within parenthesis.

such as:
OLIVER, James (Mr)

I don’t think this adds much.

The patient’s gender and age almost always will appears alongside the patient name. Indicating both gender and title is redundant.

Preferred name and nick name are absent

The NHS CUI guidelines include the patient’s preferred name and nickname.

However, these elements are not part of the OpenMRS data model at this time.

These are not part of the standard FHIR Patient Resource (Human Name) specification. (They are found under the extensions).

For these reasons preferred name and nickname will be excluded at this time.

FHIR Human Name components are absent

FHIR includes a really great set of HumanName elements and extensions that are highly flexible for the wide variety of human names on this planet. (Such as recording the patient’s mother’s maiden name).

When OpenMRS’s human naming capability is extended to match that of FHIR’s capability, we can revisit the display of human names to incorporate these additional fields.

From the series Building the EHR

Section: Conventions / Patient Name Display

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