How large is the global 'open source' Health IT community?

If you look at each of the simple links to 'Open' Health IT projects or software products on the COSI 'Open' Health web site [or the Resources Section of Open Health News]  it doesn't make much of an impression on you.  BUT, take another look and think about it for a minute.

When you see the link to the VistA system, for example, there are over 8.7 million active patients being cared for at over 150 VA Medical Centers, 850 clinics, and 150 nursing homes across the country that pass through this system.  There are over 250,000 system users, and several thousand programmers, analysts, and operators supporting the system.

This doesn't take into account the patients, users, and support staff at the growing number of state and local community hospitals, clinics, and small practices also using VistA.  Then count up the numerous vendors like DSS, Medsphere, Harris Corp, SAIC, and many others developing add-on modules to VistA and providing other support services to all of these healthcare provider organizations using the system.  The number of people tied to the VistA community is staggering.

Now look at some of the other simple little links to OpenEMR, OpenMRS, Tolven, Mirth, Epi Info, RPMS, caBIG, Ushahidi, and the hundreds of other high quality open source or public domain projects and software products. Behind each of these links are many thousands of users, developers, and support staff around the world  – not to mention the millions of patients being cared for by clinicians and institutions running these systems.

Stop and think about it! The simple looking list of links on COSI 'Open' Health or Open Health News (OHNews) to open source health IT systems and projects collectively represent a global 'Open Health' community numbering in the tens of millions of people – from end users, to programmers, analysts, operators, support staff, and patients.

Bottom line – we simply don't know how big the global Open Health community really is.  BUT, its huge! So before you or some management consultant simply dismiss 'open source'  health IT systems once again- stop and think twice. Think very carefully about these systems that you might be blithely dismissing as inconsequential.


Peter Groen, Senior Editor, Open Health News (OHN)