Supporting Health-Related Open Source

In a recent post about Linux distributions and Open Source projects, Celeste Lyn Paul writes:

The open source operating system experience exists in pieces, scattered across a world of projects and technologies. Distributions exist because they attempt to create a unified experience from the bits and pieces of open source functionality out in that world, while establishing themselves as a vendor their users can trust.

Here, of course, she is writing about KDE and Kubuntu, but this discussion about distributions is relevent to IntraHealth.

In the recent retreat, the Informatics team talked about moving into a support role for the iHRIS software instead of the primary developer. We might look at what Ms. Paul writes about Linux distributions for direction and consider supporting and developing a Linux distribution focused on Health and Medicine.

The closest thing I can find in the Open Source space to a Health Care oriented Linux distribution is Debian Medical. It includes software related to

  • Medical practice and Patient management
  • Medical research
  • Hospital Information Systems
  • Molecular Biology and Medical Genetics
  • Development of Molecular Biology and Medical Genetics Applications
  • Medical Imaging and Development of Medical Imaging Applications
  • Dental practice
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Drug databases
  • Medical Record
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Documentation and Research

This is obviously broader than our focus, but as we begin to become support for developers instead of the sole developer, it would help to have an awareness of other open-source medical software out there and a
way to distribute it to partners easily.

Also, look over Debian Medical's project goals. The following ones jump out at me as a perfect match for what IntraHealth is doing in Open Source:

  • Build a solid software base for medical health care with emphasis on easy installation, easy maintenance and security.
  • Encourage the co-operation of authors of different software projects with similar goals.
  • Test suite for easy evaluation of the quality of medical software.
  • Provide information and documentation of medical software.

When I first learned about Debian Medical, I wasn't sure how “alive” it was. Was this just another piece of abandoned hopes and dreams that so many open source projects seem to be comprised of?

But a quick glance at last month's mail archives shows that this small custom Debian distribution is thriving.

As we engage the open source community more, we should look at becoming active members of Debian Medical. Engaging the community in this way would help us learn about relevant conferences, broaden our knowledge of other software, and present opportunities to integrate our software with other Open Source software out there.

I believe this sort of engagement will cement our reputation as leaders in this field.