Study: Open source software holds key to radically changing health IT

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Open source software has the potential to dramatically change and improve the way health IT is developed and pave the way to easier interoperability, benefiting patients and caregivers, according to a report recently released by the California Health Care Foundation.
Open source software is certainly not at all new to the software industry, but as is the trend with a lot of technology adoption, the healthcare industry is a bit behind. Therefore, the report calls on the health IT providers to step up and “rethink the way it develops patient-information software to reduce costs and increase flexibility, examine the way it distributes the software to providers, and look at ways to add value to commonly used software rather than producing competing” systems.
Doing this will require a paradigm shift in the thinking of most health IT vendors which must place their focus on revenues from support, integration services, and product enhancements rather than license agreements, the report said.
One of the biggest benefits of open source use would be easing the development of standards-based electronic medical records (EMRs), and looking at the big picture also regional health information networks (RHIOs).
To this end, the technology that is built on open source must be based on standards that define “how information is structured, defined, and exchanged” which the report indicates is crucial for success.
There is building momentum for the acceptance of open source in the healthcare industry as more and more pressure is placed on providers to adopt health IT.
The report notes that there are several widely known projects that are open source-based that are proving its usefulness, including the patient information system OpenVistA, Care2X in Europe, and Health Infoway in Canada. Moreover, large computer companies like IBM, HP, and Sun Microsystems all have come out in support of open source as a preferable model, according to the report.