Why Open Source Is Positive For Healthcare

Andy Clegg | The Information Daily.com | September 9, 2014

As a clinical consultant representing a proprietary software supplier in healthcare, you may be surprised to hear that I believe the attention that open source software is receiving is positive.

This is not because open source can solve all of the current IT challenges within the healthcare service, but because it has the potential to drive a new level of innovation throughout the industry.  Whilst trusts start to consider the benefits that open source can deliver, any chosen IT strategy which includes this software should be approached with degree of caution. Both trusts and vendors are having public discussions around the unknown entities of how open source will work – support, development, liabilities, management, governance, pricing, interfacing between systems – and this is because the software, and its approach, is relatively new to healthcare. 

For open source to work you need a very active community of developers to input into the software. If you also consider the complexities with digitising healthcare compared to other industries where open source is more advanced in its application, then challenges can occur in finding professionals with both the IT skills and healthcare market knowledge required. This gap needs to be filled in order to ensure that clinical and efficiency gains are met.

In eHealth, similarly to other areas of IT, open source seems to suit tactical applications rather than the larger strategic solutions. Of course, strategic open source products can be a viable option when the risks in doing so are reduced across a global user base; Linux is a great example of this. With the increasing reliance on IT to enable efficiencies and improve outcomes, can strategic open source products and contracts offer a level of risk mitigation that is acceptable to trusts?...