The health industry has dabbled in open source since the dot-com bubble of 1999 – 2001 (1). Open source services around the world develop software for EMRs, physician practice management packages, diagnostic image viewers, and other tools. Now in the midst of a more energized open source community and other proven success of open source in other fields, industry leaders are enthusiastically adopting open source solutions. In this post, I will first discuss the benefits of open source solutions in healthcare. Next, I will evaluate these benefits in OpenMRS which we learned about in class. Finally, I will explore the different functionalities of open source solutions I found.
There are many benefits of open source solutions in healthcare. The first is the ease of access, when services can be downloaded from websites that serve as repositories. With few obligations including honoring licensing terms, healthcare providers can use these services without having to pay any software fees (1). Furthermore, another benefit is that the only cost of resources to install and support the software. Additionally, the ability to see the source code allows developers to re-approach and identify problems in the software. Although some may argue that this is an obstacle for hospital that cannot afford to hire a developer, hospitals d not have to rely on a any one vendor for software and services. Finally, other benefits include low cost solutions, flexibility, and opportunities to innovate in the of $77.8 billion annual market for IT healthcare savings (1). But what value propositions do specific open source software services in healthcare provide?
OpenMRS is an open source software that seeks to improve health care delivery in resource constrained environments with a global medical record system platform. OpenMRS can implement health IT in a way that “decreases costs, increases capacity, and lessens the disparities between wealthy and resource poor environments. (2)” Moreover, OpenMRS allows people to easily share information with healthcare professionals to more effective and efficient treatment. Finally, OpenMRS can even ease the workload on paperwork-buried healthcare professionals with their tools. Surprisingly, there are many more Open Source Healthcare services that we did not discuss in class.
There are numerous other open source healthcare solutions that each target niche problems in the industry. Care2X offers a hospital information system, practice management, and exchange protocol, while ClearHealth handles scheduling and billing (3). Meanwhile, OpenVista targets U.S. Veterans Administration healthcare and OpenHRE targets access control and record exchange. The point of this is that there are so many open source tools driving healthcare forward and providing free services that level the economics of healthcare.
All in all, open source software and solutions in healthcare offer flexible, low cost, effective services for a variety of niche applications. While OpenMRS tackles global record system platform, other solutions target hospital IT, practice management, scheduling, and billing. Ultimately, the future looks bright for equity in healthcare.