Much of the data needed for research and quality improvement are only available in clinical notes. EMERSE provides users with the ability to search these valuable sources of data.


EMERSE (Electronic Medical Record Search Engine) allows users to search free text (unstructured) clinical notes from the electronic health record (EHR). It can be thought of like "Google" for clinical notes. The tool was developed at the University of Michigan in 2005; UNC-Chapel Hill launched EMERSE in October 2017. EMERSE can support a variety of tasks, including clinical and translational research, internal quality improvement and quality assurance initiatives, as well as hospital operational support tasks.

EMERSE contains fully identified clinical notes from UNC Health Care.

Who can use EMERSE?

EMERSE users must:

  • Be paid employees of UNC-Chapel Hill or UNC Health Care. Students may only receive access to EMERSE if they are paid employees/interns etc. (i.e., in UNC's HR system)
  • Meet the necessary regulatory requirements
  • Complete the required training

If you have any questions, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

EMERSE Regulatory Requirements

All data in EMERSE are considered protected health information (PHI) under HIPAA and should be treated as such.

All searches in EMERSE must have a definitive purpose related to a predetermined operational, quality improvement, or research need. All EMERSE users will be required to attest a purpose for each EMERSE session. Research users will be able to select from a list of applicable IRBs. Note that your IRBs will only be available in EMERSE if they (1) are currently approved and active, and (2) have requested and received a waiver of HIPAA in section D.3. Operational users will also have the opportunity to note a purpose in a free text field. We ask that operational users include a clear and definitive purpose for their session (e.g., project title).

EMERSE Training

NC TraCS provides 60-minute, in-person training sessions for EMERSE. Attendance at the training session is a prerequisite for using EMERSE. The training will cover what EMERSE is, how EMERSE works, and how to use EMERSE appropriately.

Trainings are held in Brinkhous-Bullitt 219 (NC TraCS). Registration is required.

Level Date Time Registration Link
Introduction to EMERSE July 11, 2018 1:00 - 2:00 PM register
Introduction to EMERSE August 8, 2018 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM register

If you cannot attend this training, you may sign up to be notified when additional trainings are scheduled.

If you have questions, please request a consult.