Saturday, August 25, 2007

Open Source in Healthcare

I read an interesting blog entry on ZDNet the other day titled "What is stalling open source in healthcare?". Dana Blankenhorn put forth bureaucracy and proprietary advantage as possible forces preventing the adoption of open source in healthcare. I responded that part of the problem may be the lack of open source developers with the necessary domain expertise.

I have been trying to start an open source healthcare project (openEPRS) without much success. While I have received numerous inquiries from users, FLOSS developers have been unusually silent. If this is due to a lack of developers with domain expertise, a project like openEPRS can still succeed by attracting amateur developers with the requisite healthcare background. Amateur developers who are domain experts can make enormous contributions to a project. I have experienced this first hand with a number of consulting projects where the amateur developers know what they want, and the professional developer helps them get there.

Others have suggested that healthcare projects are too complex for open source. Perhaps this view can be attributed to the development of monolithic standards from openEHR and HL7, organizations that are so bureaucratic it takes forever to produce anything useful. If such standards are designed properly, adding complexity should not be that difficult. There is no rule that stipulates that a specification needs to be complete before development starts. Complex healthcare applications are perfect for agile development methods, start small and grow.

Healthcare is an area that could really benefit from open source, on the other hand, maybe its boring compared to coding 3D gaming engines.