GNU Health, a Spanish health and hospital information system built with free and open source software, this March received the Free Software Foundation (FSF) 'Award for Projects of Social Benefit'.
This award is given to software projects that apply free software or the ideas of the free software movement and that intentionally benefits society in other aspects of life, the FSF explained in a statement. "This award stresses the use of free software in the service of humanity."
GNU Health aims to offer an complete hospital information system. Functionalities include managing of patient encounters, hospitalisation, laboratory orders, electronic prescriptions, epidemiological information, financial management and human resource management.
The project was started in 2008 by Spanish software engineer Luis Falcón. Until 2011 it was known as Medical. The tool is built on top of the open source enterprise resource planning tools TinyERP (renamed as OpenERP). The project was renamed GNU Health, explains Falcón, after switching to Tryton, a fork of TinyERP.
Dignity of society
Falcón in 2011 founded GNU Solidario, a non-profit foundation, that according to its website was started with one goal: "To deliver health and education with free software. Health and education are basis for development and dignity of societies."
GNU Health is used in hospitals and by health organisations in Brazil, Greece, Suriname, the Philippines, Tanzania, Argentina and other countries.
The United Nations University - International Institute for Global Health (IIGH) in 2011 organised a training on the development of the software, explaining that it "supports the usage of open source healthcare information system in developing countries through capacity-building programs and technical consultancy as a tool to improve efficiency and quality of healthcare services."
On his blog, Falcón writes that he is proud of the FSF award, thanking the organisation and its founder, Richard Stallman, for creating the environment for social justice and equity. He also thanks several free software projects, GNU Health users and its development community. "I see free software as social activism. GNU Health's goal is to improve the lives of the underprivileged by means of free software."