Open to Suggestions: Can the National Programme for IT be Saved by Open Source Software?

Geraint Lewis | Nuttfield Trust | September 12, 2011

...Single care records offer huge advantages over the alternatives, namely paper records or fragmented electronic records that can’t be accessed across the primary/secondary care divide. So has the time come for a radical rethink on how to deliver them for the NHS?..

...perhaps the time has come for a radical re-think. One sweeping change might be to mandate the use of open-source software across the health service. Yes this would be disruptive in the short term, but it could promote inter-operability between different parts of the NHS because the open standards would be published openly.

At the same time, going open source could help contain costs for a number of reasons. Firstly because open source software is free to download and use. Secondly because it can be cheaper to customise and adapt. But most importantly because the use of open-source software should promote a more competitive market in IT support for the NHS by avoiding so-called vendor lock-in.

This fully open-source option is the route being taken by the national health service of Jordan, which is currently rolling out the VHA's open-source system, “VistA” across the whole country – linking every primary care clinic and all 43 hospitals across the land...