I am a big proponent of the open source development model. This blog and most recent sites I have worked on or managed for friends run on open source CMS systems. Open source, by promoting a free license to the product’s archetype by it’s very nature leads to a greater model of open collaboration. From collaboration comes innovation. Take the root, plant it and see what else you can grow off of it. A model that is a perfect fit for the fast paced, ever changing world of technology.
So, it seems that every post I read online has grudgingly admitted that healthcare has “finally” embraced technology. I could write a completely different post on how I think that does those involved on the front line of healthcare a disservice. I mean, if you or a loved one has recently undergone something like open heart surgery, I am sure you would admit that healthcare has actually been at the forefront of embracing technological advances for quite a while now.
But the point they are trying to make by painting by such a broad brush is that the everyday operation of healthcare has been rather slow to embrace a digitization of technological advances. Compare it to the airline industry. Planes continue to advance at a rapid pace with prototypes etc and the “front end” of the airline industry has allowed passengers to go online or go through an app and take care of where they want to go and when for years. Brilliant.
So, healthcare has been dragged into the same playing field. However, even though logistics is certainly nothing to sneeze at, one could argue that a plane carrying 100 passengers has a limited number of things to check off to complete so that the customer taking part in the front end with the airline can make it happen. The human body and its myriad of conditions is not so simple or so uniform. Every patient is different. Therefore, I think it can be argued that the reason that that everyday “healthcare” has been so slow to embrace digital technology is well founded.
However, we are getting to that point and in the long run, it is more efficient and it is better for patient care.
But to get back to the original point of this post (finally) how do we get there? Do we embrace something like an open source electronic health system or do we continue to have a path of silos or closed systems where your health information could essentially be contained within one system or institution? If you, the patient, stay in that system you may never know or care that your health information resides there. But, if you have to go outside of that particular facility for your care, then you may care. How well can your information be shared? Is the whole piece of your health picture being transmitted to who it needs to go to? Is what has been entered into your health history accurate or complete? How can you ensure that the system that is being used is as innovative as possible in making sure your information is accurate and that it works to potentially avoid mistakes being provided in your care? These are all challenging questions.
There are so many advantages to an open source community, so why not see it thrive in healthcare as well? Every doctor, every hospital using a system that can’t adequately talk or seamlessly work with each other impedes progress. If innovative ideas can’t be freely built upon that system, think of what could be and not what has to be. More choice, more competition essentially, can see nothing but a myriad of ideas that could take us to healthcare that is seen in science fiction movies. Want to carry your health history through your fingerprint? Allow innovation, don’t impede it.
That isn’t to say that open source needs to be a replacement for legacy IT systems, but at the very least, have an open source platform that is an extension of these systems, then the ability to collaboratively work within the framework of other systems, or healthcare apps or medical devices increases exponentially. Innovation in the front lines of healthcare should continue to evolve. But we shouldn’t be tied to working within one model. Open the source, have the software be open and have a vibrant community spring out from that to support it in ways we have only started to explore. But, if we continue to treat the digitalization of healthcare like some Windows vs. Mac tug of war from the early part of this century, then the only one who loses is the patient.