Leveraging Investments and Sharing Knowledge: Open Source Offerings

This is archived content; for historical reference only.

The ability to exchange clinical health information among organizations and individuals holds great promise for improving the quality and efficiency of health care. But achieving a level of integration that allows information to go beyond the walls of individual institutions requires software models that can resolve a host of technical obstacles while also being accessible, affordable, and widely supported.

Making software available as “open source” can help accelerate the benefits of clinical information-sharing by reducing costs, using common standards, and involving a community of motivated participants who can improve upon the original software. An “open source” application’s source code is available for the public to use — and even modify — free of the usual license fees. Open source software is typically created as a collaborative effort in which the participating programmers improve upon the code and share the changes.

In September 2005, CHCF commissioned Forrester Research to review the Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) marketplace and to explore whether CHCF might offer software developed for the Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange to the open source community to spark greater adoption of health information technology. Forrester’s investigation determined that RHIO technology is in its early stages, that there are no off-the-shelf commercial applications that meet most RHIO needs and vendor solutions can be prohibitively expensive, and that an open source offering of the Care Data Exchange software could help accelerate implementation of RHIOs, especially in resource-poor communities.

In the fall of 2006, CHCF hosted two public forums, in Washington, DC, and San Francisco, to discuss the opportunity of an open source RHIO product, with considerable interest expressed by the representatives of some 100 organizations.

In April 2007, CHCF decided to begin the process of conveying ownership of the Care Data Exchange code to an appropriate representative of the open source community. This process is currently under way.