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The Evolving Role of Open Source Software in Medicine and Health Services

Submitted by holger on Mon, 2013/01/21 - 09:55
TitleThe Evolving Role of Open Source Software in Medicine and Health Services
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsIngram, D, Arikan, SS
JournalTechnology Innovation Management Review
Date Published01/2013
Keywordselectronic health care record, information retrieval, open source framework, openEHR Foundation, persistence, standards based

The past five decades have witnessed immense coevolution of methods and tools of information technology, and their practical and experimental application within the medical and healthcare domain. Healthcare itself continues to evolve in response to change in healthcare needs, progress in the scientific foundations of treatments, and in professional and managerial organization of affordable and effective services, in which patients and their families and carers increasingly participate. Taken together, these trends impose highly complex underlying challenges for the design, development, and sustainability of the quality of supporting information services and software infrastructure that are needed. The challenges are multidisciplinary and multiprofessional in scope, and they require deeper study and learning to inform policy and promote public awareness of the problems health services have faced in this area for many years. The repeating pattern of failure to live up to expectations of policy-driven national health IT initiatives has proved very costly and remains frustrating and unproductive for all involved. In this article, we highlight the barriers to progress and discuss the dangers of pursuing a standardization framework devoid of empirical testing and iterative development. We give the example of the openEHR Foundation, which was established at University College London (UCL) in London, England, with members in 80 countries. The Foundation is a not-for-profit company providing open specifications and working for generic standards for electronic records, informed directly by a wide range of implementation experience. We also introduce the Opereffa open source framework, which was developed at UCL based on these specifications and which has been downloaded in some 70 countries. We argue that such an approach is now essential to support good discipline, innovation, and governance at the heart of medicine and health services, in line with the new mandate for health commissioning in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), which emphasizes patient participation, innovation, transparency, and accountability.

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