Open Source Software a Booster Shot for Health Care?
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Open Source Software a Booster Shot for Health Care?
by Kristin Shoemaker - Sep. 27, 2008Comments (0)
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InformationWeek details the conception of House Resolution 6898. The bill's name is more cryptic than the shorthand on a prescription order, but could bolster both the US Health Care system, and perceptions of open source in both public and private sectors. The Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008 offers incentives for health care providers to move to an open, shared platform for health records. California Representative Pete Stark introduced the bill on September 15th. The particularly intriguing thing is that it isn't just the records that Rep. Stark is proposing be in an open, exchangeable format. He is proposing that the health information technology system itself be open source, whether it is newly created, or based on an existing open source health record system. The bill mentions VistA, the health record system used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as a possible starting place for open source development. And indeed, the efforts in this area were started prior to the bill proposal. Medsphere has its OpenVista software and a number of specific modules developed for different health care settings. There are financial incentives proposed to encourage health care providers to adopt this platform, but even when the government incentives disappear, the financial benefits are likely to continue. Exchanging records between different health departments in affiliated hospital systems can be costly due to software and format incompatibilities. The solutions are varied, expensive, and could be potentially dangerous. Data and record migration may possible, but time consuming. Transcribing printed records from one piece of software to another is time consuming, and leaves room for error and omission. No hard figures are supplied for how much money using an open system could save. The figures for improved quality of life, and lives saved, due to comprehensive (and correct) records might be even more staggering. Open source is often talked about in terms of fostering innovation, stability, and security, and without a doubt those are important reasons to encourage its use. Sometimes, though, the reasons for adoption are far more simplistic, far more human, and infinitely more important -- sharing code, and the information it contains and manipulates, can save lives.
open source health heath care openVista legislation MedSphere
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