Belgian, British and German advocates of open source in healthcare want to join efforts, hoping to raise interest, and to strengthen the network of healthcare software specialists. A conference is tentatively being planned in London (UK) early next year.
“Hospitals and other healthcare organisations, medical specialists and general practitioners are reluctant to adopt open source software”, says Etienne Saliez, a Belgian retired medical IT systems specialist. “What is needed is a strong network of professional support services providers of open source solutions” he adds.
To get that network off the ground, Saliez, one of the organisers of the annual Open Source Village, part of the Medetel conference in Luxembourg, is working with Stuart Mackintosh, a British open source specialist. Mackintosh is involved in the open source healthcare projects organised by the government-owned National Health Service. Mackintosh, founder of OpusVL, an ICT service provider in Rubgy, Warwickshire, is promoting a UK trade organisation for open source IT firms.
The two can also count on the help of Thomas Karopka, a German academic involved in medical informatics. He is a member of the Open Source Working Group of the European Federation of Medical Informatics, and of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth.
The conference should bring together representatives of open source healthcare projects in Europe and elsewhere. “Too many open source solutions related to healthcare have overlaps”, says Saliez, adding: “Yet at the same time, there is not one software solution to master all situations.”
By bringing projects together, he hopes to get them to focus on the reuse of components. Saliez does not want to abolish competition, but would like to see projects agree on common components. “We need to define these components, and standardise APIs”, he says.
Another target group for the conference is open source trade groups, that can help to organise professional and sustainable support. “A hospital wants to find support in its region, not in another country”, Saliez says. A third group that will be invited to the discussion are medical organisations.