What is the Role Of the 'Open Source' Movement in Healthcare?

Every so often, we need to go back and remind ourselves why the open source movement is so important. We need to revisit and ask questions about the role of the open source movement in improving healthcare. How does the non-profit open source movement relate to companies operating in the for-profit marketplace?

The intent of this blog is to raise these questions again and set the stage for further discussion of this issue. While I am a strong advocate of the 'Open Health' movement, I am not so fanatical that I lose site of the need for a robust industry composed of numerous 'for profit' companies competing for new customers and increased market share.

So what is the real role of the 'open source' movement and software development process in healthcare? Here are some ideas that immediately come to mind:

To enhance collaborative 'open' Research and Development (R&D) efforts by - 

  • Including more subject matter experts (SME) in the brainstorming and functional requirements definition process
  • Facilitating more open discussions and exploration of alternatives
  • Increased sharing of technology, information, and knowledge
  • Helping to foster increased creativity and innovation
  • Allowing for concurrent yet different agendas and differing methodologies and approaches
  • Helping to  establish 'open' industry standards to facilitate development of high quality, interoperable solutions.

The end results of the 'open source' Software Development process include –

  • Lowering development costs for all participating organizations
  • Providing ready access to 'open' source code and materials needed to produce health IT products
  • Providing a low cost alternative for those healthcare provider organizations that can't afford more costly commercial products
  • Facilitating continued collaboration on the creation of innovative system innovative enhancements
  • Increasing the speed of the design, development, and distribution processes, thereby reducing time to bring a product to market
  • Helping to create new business models to compete more effectively in the 21st century

The 'Open Source' software development process and movement is not about –

  • Competing against companies for paying customers
  • Increasing commercial market share
  • Competing for contracts to install new systems
  • Competing for contracts to provide ongoing support & services

What else is the 'Open Source' movement and software development process about? Just as important, what is it not about? Please share your thoughts with us.