Chris J Powell

In the World of Medical Records…can OpenSource Rule Supreme?

Recently the Free Software Foundation announced its 2012 Winners and I decided that so many of my Clients talk to me about MRS and EMR (Medical Record System and Electronic Medical Records) that I really should investigate further the winner of the for Award for Projects of Social Benefit.  OpenMRS is an interesting project from start to finish as it truly does equalize the ability to provide quality care…at a fraction of the cost of a traditional EMR System.

In searching for a comparable demo of a MRS system I was amazed that unlike OpenMRS, non of the other major players in Medical Records Systems allow for a view or demo beyond fancy Slide Shows and White Papers.  I was able to jump in and look at all the layers of OpenMRS quickly and efficiently to evaluate what features where available with the default download and see if there were anything that I could poke holes in…and the reality is…because it it built on open standards…the sky is the limit on what OpenMRS can do.

When I could not find a demo I decided to take a deeper look at the importance of EMR and the real potential savings that the Digital World can provide to a Health Care Professional.  In a report published back in 2003 (at the very early stages of the EMR movement) the American Medical Journal published a very interesting report of the potential ROI on EMR and this was based on a cost of about $40,000+ over a five year period (a Rand Corporation Report in 2005 also eluded to $81 Billion in Savings) but the reality of the whole process is…the savings are not there…the systems are too complex or  based on the conversations with my clients just do not live up to the promises made by the vendors.

So why would an OpenSource Solution be of any value to a broken system that seems to be more about profits than about improving health care?  With an install base that is global in nature…see the OpenMRS Atlas that has a focus on improving healthcare not about improving profits…it is in my opinion time that we all take a step back and find the right way to do things…not just the most profitable.

OpenMRS is just like any other OpenSource project…it is not completely free (although the cost of hardware and internal expertise is the only real expense with this setup) I was most impressed when I started peeling back the layers of just how open the OpenMRS organization is.  With a real focus on the Third World and looking at the profiles of 10 of their current customers…the positive change that this FREE and OPENSOURCE software is having…should not only be recognized by the Free Software Foundation but by the global healthcare organizations as progressing real positive change.

As I mentioned, I have many Healthcare customers…and I truly encourage them to investigate this system…not for the purpose of using it internally but to encourage their current developers to help expand and improve the product.  Participate in the OpenMRS community and do something truly positive for the world.  This is the Change that I mentioned yesterday…little bits have a ripple effect around the world. HITECH and HIPAA may limit what you can and can’t do for your own patients but in North America we are just a small drop in the bucket of the Global Need for access to better healthcare.

Cheers and have a great weekend.

Chris J Powell

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