Can Open Source EHRs Offer a New Path for Health IT Usability?

Jennifer Bresnick | Health IT Analytics | March 28, 2017

Open source EHRs may allow quicker customization and more flexible development for providers in search of improved health IT usability. interoperability becomes more and more important to providers looking for an easy transition to value-based care, the big names are struggling to provide the flexibility and health information exchange capabilities that their customers are demanding. Dissatisfaction with the status quo has been leading a small group of intrepid developers to pursue a different EHR option: free and open source software (F/OSS) that don’t tie users in any particular established health IT ecosystem.

Mona AlsaffarIn an article published in JMIR Medical Informatics, researchers from the University of California-Davis decided to explore the small but intriguing world of open source EHRs, which may fit very neatly into the growing interest in application programming interfaces, FHIR, and other open data standards that encourage customized mix-and-match health IT development without the historical pitfalls of proprietary systems. Using data from 2014, the researchers identified 54 open source projects that met the HHS definition of an electronic health record.  At the time, four of those packages had achieved Certified EHR Technology status from the ONC.

Globally, the projects included in the sample had been downloaded more than 200,000 times, although the number of downloads does not necessarily equate to installations and the rate of active use. Open source EHRs have several advantages over traditional commercial systems, writes corresponding author Mona Alsaffar, MSc, and her team. Perhaps most importantly for many providers, they are often offered completely free of charge and without ongoing licensing costs, which may eliminate a major pain point for organizations running on tight budgets...