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Global Open Source healthcare IT-platform started in a local healthcare center

Global and active OpenMRS communities

Published on: 19/03/2021 Last update: 08/05/2021 News

The communities behind OpenMRS count more than 3.000 individuals online and several public and private partnerships. OpenMRS is more than electricity-to-paper. It is a dynamic platform that are constantly developed on with the intention to give the ownership back to the hospital staff who are the designers of the partform used for fighting TB and HIV/AIDS aong other illnesses. Interests groups are popping up in the communites and making local contributions that fit specifical needs in the local areas.

Open Source system for the health sector


An important element in an Open Source project is the community and communities are definitely a focus for the OpenMRS organisation (Mission Statement). The platform OpenMRS is a global healthcare IT-platform with multiple collaborations in the public and private sector. Specifically: ‘OpenMRS is a platform that countries and implementers use to create a customized EMR system in response to actual needs on the ground’, so it is specified on their website.

The platform is a support for all in the public hearth care sector. Especially in countries with a weaker public infrastructure. And from the very beginning, the OpenMRS platform was intented to assist public heath care in Kenya and Rwanda.


The bonus of the Open Source model

The Electricity-to-the-Paper thought seems to be beginning of the platform. While a company developing proprietar software can built this, there are many advances of using Open Source instead.

For instance Open Source creates more control over own IT-systems. It is cheaper due to no subscription is required. It provides transparency for citizens and staff.

However, OpenMRS recieved even more benefits from using this model. The organisation has many active communities of developers and they have included the users and other volunteers directly in these communities. As it states on the website: ‘OpenMRS is a global community of truly dedicated, talented, and generous contributors who build and maintain the OpenMRS platform and other, foundational OpenMRS technical products.’


A generic medicial record system

Initially the platform was to be used to support health care workers in the global South in their work fighting HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.  Today OpenMRS is used on almost every contient. The platform is in more than 5.000 healthcare facilities in more than 40 countries, which 12,6 million patients has benefitted from since 2004.

The platform is designed as ‘a generic medical record system that can support the care of patients, gathering observations, encounters, notes, and other data from the healthcare system and rendering those in summaries, reports, and data views that would improve the effectiveness of the people using the system.’

This medical record system has gained many contributers and partnerships over time, both private and public ones.


Partnerships in different shapes

Partnerships finance the existence and development of OpenMRS and some partners are also essential in the development of new features and projects.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States , Indiana University (XSEDE-department) and Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSUOSL) are some of the public partners in the project. These universiteties has actively contributed with code to the OpenMRS platform.

The universities, however, are not the only developers on this medical record platform.


Contributions to a repository

Currently OpenMRS has 274 repositories on their Github with 74 profiles contributing. But they also have a long list of projects ready for take-off as a developer. The OpenMRS is ready to assist about Project Lifecycle, Best Practices, Templates, and Project Management. Still medical professionals and designers (among other professions) also contribute to the final result in the online community.

Also, OpenMRS has Local Communities separat from the online projects. There are communities of interest, geographical location, or implementation-focused groups.


Interest groups for local issues

All the local communities share the facts that they are self-governed, should meet on a regular basis and has an official name given by the OpenMRS organisation, who they should be in regular contact with.'

OpenMRS is very interested in having medical staff participating in these communities. For the organisation and the platform, this will ensure a strong connection between these public sector actors and the platform and its subprojects. In this way these public actors, the users of the platform, will help set a direction for the needs for specific features and advocate for the platform itself.



Final take-ways

  • Hospital staff (the users) are among the designers of OpenMRS, a generic platform for medical record system that can support the care of patients.
  • The platform has a large community improving the platform and extra elements for it.
  • WIth OpenMRS the hospital gain ownership over their IT-system.



Photo by Freepik at Flaticon