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  • Lloyd Price

Open Source Software in HealthTech: Hype today or Hope for the future?



Exec Summary:


The future of open source in healthtech is very promising. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, open source software will play an increasingly important role in providing healthcare organizations with the tools they need to improve patient care.


The main reasons why open source software provides hope for the future are:

  • Cost savings: Open source software is typically much cheaper than proprietary software. This is because the development and maintenance of open source software is done by a community of volunteers, rather than by a single company.

  • Flexibility: Open source software is more flexible than proprietary software. This is because the code is freely available, so users can modify it to meet their specific needs.

  • Security: Open source software is often more secure than proprietary software. This is because the code is publicly reviewed by a large number of people, which makes it more difficult for security vulnerabilities to go unnoticed.

  • Innovation: Open source software is often more innovative than proprietary software. This is because the community of developers is constantly working to improve the software.

In addition to these benefits, open source software is also becoming increasingly interoperable. This means that data from open source applications can be easily shared with other systems, which is essential for the future of healthcare.


As a result of these factors, open source is becoming increasingly popular in the healthcare industry. A recent study by the Linux Foundation found that 75% of healthcare organizations are using open source software. This number is expected to grow in the coming years, as open source software becomes more widely adopted.


Here are some examples of open source software that are being used in healthcare today:

  • EHRs: There are a number of open source EHRs available, such as OpenMRS, OpenEHR, and Elyra. These EHRs offer a number of benefits, including vendor independence, flexibility, and interoperability.

  • Clinical decision support systems: Clinical decision support systems (CDSS) are software applications that help healthcare providers make better decisions about patient care. There are a number of open source CDSSs available, such as OpenClinica and cTAKES. These CDSSs offer a number of benefits, including cost savings, flexibility, and customization.

  • Healthcare research: Open source software is also being used for healthcare research. For example, the PhysioNet project provides a large database of physiological data that is freely available to researchers. This data can be used to develop new healthcare interventions and to improve the understanding of disease.

Overall, open source has a bright future in healthtech. It offers a number of benefits that are well-suited to the healthcare industry, and it is becoming increasingly popular with healthcare organizations. As a result, we can expect to see even more open source software being used in healthcare in the coming years.


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History of open source software in HealthTech

The history of open source software in healthtech is a long and winding one. It dates back to the early days of the open source movement, when a group of developers at the University of Utah released the first version of the GNU operating system in 1984.


One of the early pioneers of open source software in healthtech was the World Health Organization (WHO). In 1996, the WHO released the first version of the DHIS (District Health Information System) software, which is an open source platform for collecting and managing health data.


In the years since, open source software has become increasingly popular in the healthcare industry. Today, there are hundreds of open source software projects that are being used by healthcare organizations around the world.


Some of the most popular open source software projects in healthtech include:

  • OpenMRS: An open source electronic health record (EHR) system.

  • FHIR: An open standard for exchanging health data.

  • CareDash: An open source platform that helps patients find and rate healthcare providers.

  • OpenVitalSigns: An open source platform that allows patients to track their vital signs.

These are just a few examples of the many open source software projects that are being used in healthcare today. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative uses of open source software in the years to come.


Here are some of the key milestones in the history of open source software in healthtech:

  • 1984: The GNU operating system is released.

  • 1996: The WHO releases the first version of DHIS.

  • 2000: The OpenMRS project is launched.

  • 2004: The HL7 FHIR standard is released.

  • 2010: The CareDash platform is launched.

  • 2016: The OpenVitalSigns platform is launched.

Today, open source software is playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare industry. It is being used to develop a wide range of applications, from electronic health records to clinical decision support systems to personal health records.


As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative uses of open source software in the years to come.


Open source software in the NHS


Open source software is mainly being used in the NHS in the following areas:

  • Electronic health records (EHRs): Open source EHR systems, such as OpenMRS and VistA, are being used by some NHS trusts. These systems offer a number of advantages over proprietary EHR systems, including lower cost, greater flexibility, and better security.

  • Clinical decision support systems (CDSSs): Open source CDSSs, such as CareDash and eHealthMe, are being used by some NHS trusts to help healthcare providers make better decisions about patient care. These systems provide access to a wealth of clinical information, which can help providers to identify and manage potential risks.

  • Telehealth applications: Open source telehealth applications, such as VSee and Jitsi Meet, are being used by some NHS trusts to provide remote medical care. These applications allow patients to connect with healthcare providers from anywhere in the world, which can improve access to care.

  • Personal health records (PHRs): Open source PHRs, such as MyHealtheVet and WellDoc, are being used by some NHS trusts to allow patients to store and manage their own health information. These systems can help patients to track their health, share their information with healthcare providers, and make informed decisions about their care.

  • Healthcare research: Open source software is also being used by NHS researchers to develop new healthcare applications and tools. For example, the NHS Digital Research and Development team is using open source software to develop a new platform for sharing and analyzing healthcare data.

The use of open source software in the NHS is still in its early stages, but it is growing rapidly. As the NHS continues to adopt open source software, it is likely to have a significant impact on the way healthcare is delivered in the UK.


Here are some of the specific examples of where open source software is being used in the NHS:

  • The NHS Digital Research and Development team is using open source software to develop a new platform for sharing and analyzing healthcare data. The platform, called the NHS Digital Research Platform, is based on the open source software platform Synapse. Synapse is a powerful platform that allows researchers to share and analyze healthcare data in a secure and compliant way.

  • The NHS Trust for Scotland is using open source software to develop a new electronic health record system. The system, called the Scottish Electronic Health Record, is based on the open source software platform OpenMRS. OpenMRS is a flexible and scalable platform that can be adapted to meet the specific needs of different NHS trusts.

  • The NHS Trust for Wales is using open source software to develop a new clinical decision support system. The system, called the Welsh Clinical Decision Support System, is based on the open source software platform CareDash. CareDash is a powerful system that can help healthcare providers make better decisions about patient care.

These are just a few examples of where open source software is being used in the NHS. As the NHS continues to adopt open source software, it is likely to have a significant impact on the way healthcare is delivered in the UK.



Barriers to scaling open source software in healthcare

There are a number of barriers to scaling open source software in healthcare. These include:

  • Lack of technical expertise: Many healthcare organizations do not have the technical expertise to manage and deploy open source software. This can be a significant barrier, as open source software can be complex to install and configure.

  • Lack of support: Many open source projects do not have dedicated support teams. This can be a problem, as healthcare organizations may need help with troubleshooting and maintenance.

  • Licensing issues: Some open source licenses can be restrictive, which can prevent healthcare organizations from using the software in certain ways. This can be a barrier, as healthcare organizations may need to use the software in ways that are not explicitly allowed by the license.

  • Security concerns: Some open source software has security vulnerabilities. This can be a concern, as healthcare organizations need to ensure that their data is secure.

  • Interoperability: Some open source software is not interoperable with other systems. This can be a barrier, as healthcare organizations need to be able to exchange data with other systems.

Despite these barriers, there are a number of organizations that are working to scale open source software in healthcare. These organizations are providing technical support, developing training materials, and working to address licensing and security concerns.


As these efforts continue, it is likely that open source software will become more widely adopted in healthcare.


Here are some specific examples of barriers to scaling open source software in healthcare:

  • Lack of technical expertise: A study by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that only 22% of healthcare organizations have the technical expertise to manage and deploy open source software. This lack of expertise can make it difficult for healthcare organizations to adopt open source software, as they may need to hire external consultants or train their own staff.

  • Lack of support: Many open source projects do not have dedicated support teams. This can be a problem, as healthcare organizations may need help with troubleshooting and maintenance. For example, a study by the Linux Foundation found that 40% of open source projects do not have any dedicated support staff.

  • Licensing issues: Some open source licenses can be restrictive, which can prevent healthcare organizations from using the software in certain ways. For example, the GPL license requires that any derivative works of the software be released under the same license. This can be a barrier, as healthcare organizations may need to use the software in ways that are not explicitly allowed by the license.

  • Security concerns: Some open source software has security vulnerabilities. This can be a concern, as healthcare organizations need to ensure that their data is secure. For example, a study by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) found that 70% of open source projects have at least one known security vulnerability.

  • Interoperability: Some open source software is not interoperable with other systems. This can be a barrier, as healthcare organizations need to be able to exchange data with other systems. For example, a study by the MITRE Corporation found that only 40% of open source health data standards are interoperable with other standards.

Despite these barriers, there are a number of organizations that are working to scale open source software in healthcare. These organizations are providing technical support, developing training materials, and working to address licensing and security concerns.


As these efforts continue, it is likely that open source software will become more widely adopted in healthcare.


Engage with the HealthTech Community


HealthTech M&A Newsletter from Nelson Advisors - Market Insights & Analysis for Founders & Investors. Subscribe today! https://lnkd.in/e5hTp_xb


HealthTech M&A Advisory by Founders for Founders, Owners & Investors. Buy Side, Sell Side, Growth and Strategy mandates - Email lloyd@nelsonadvisors.co.uk


HealthTech Thought Leadership from Nelson Advisors - Industry Insights & Analysis for Founders, Owners & Investors. Visit https://www.healthcare.digital






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