Open Source to the Rescue in Puerto Rico

Darius Tahir and Arthur Allen | Politico | October 16, 2017

This week, a collaboration of private sector companies, the government, and not-for-profits hopes to deliver an EHR system to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, project leader Luis Belen told Morning eHealth's Darius Tahir. Belen, CEO of the non-profit, D.C-based National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved, has been personally touched by the disaster: two of his aunts died because of the storm.

A road in the Roseau area is littered with structural debris, damaged vegetation and downed power poles and lines - Credit Roosevelt Skerrit CCBYThe organization is coordinating with teams from HHS to bring a package of satellite phones, pre-loaded laptops, Amazon cloud storage, and an open-source software, OpenEMR. The package will be distributed to federally qualified health centers, to provide to aid workers. That, Belen anticipates, will boost the effectiveness of the response. "When teams go out into the remote communities, they've been writing things out," he said. Technology should at least allow better tracking of patients. Because Puerto Rico's health information exchange was hosted by computers on the mainland, the latter should be able to upload some medical history to the open-source EHR.

- The software should also help with the long-term aftermath of the storm. If large numbers of Puerto Ricans leave the island for the mainland, their doctors will need to know their medical history. "We're going to be able to track that, and quickly provide those details to centers on the mainland," Belen said. He's looking for additionial partners and in particular, for equipment.