Open Source in Good Health and Vice Versa

Glyn Moody | ComputerWorld UK | April 5, 2011

Last week I wrote about the UK government's “new” IT strategy, which is designed in part to avoid some of the costly mistakes of the past. And as far as the latter go, there aren't many bigger or costlier than the NHS National Programme for Information Technology (NpfIT).

Now, some of us might say that one of the reasons this was such a disaster was that it did just about everything wrong: it was imposed unilaterally from the top, and built around huge slabs of proprietary code - but you'd expect me to say that. So here's someone else opining much the same, slightly more politely:

difficulties have been experienced in the United Kingdom delivering the NPfIT on time and within budget. Additionally, concern has been expressed that a lack of clinical engagement threatens the success of the project. While some progress has been made with networks, hardware, and software, many promised benefits such as single-point data entry (“With IT,information can be captured once and used many times” - Downing Street 2002 NHS IT Briefing) are still eagerly awaited by practicing UK clinicians.

This comes from a fascinating new paper “Open Source, Open Standards, and Health Care Information Systems”, which deals with an area I've long thought is - or at least should be - a key one for free software: healthcare. Here's its basic thesis about healthcare information systems (HIS) and open source: