Prof John Chelsom presented the principles of Open Health Informatics and the cityEHR health records system at the NHS Open Source Open Day on 26th November in Newcastle, UK. (See his presentation slides here)
The event was attended by over 120 people with an interest in promoting the use of open source software in the NHS. A variety of approaches and applications were presented and it looks as if the drive for open source in the NHS may now be reaching critical mass.
John picked up on some interesting themes introduced by Dr Marcus Baw who is a keen advocate of all things open in health informatics. One theme challenged by John was the suggestion that open source / open standards can be used to prevent wasting time on ‘re-inventing the wheel’.
Whilst this is a laudable goal in many cases, there are also many examples where clinicians should be encouraged and enabled to re-invent wheels – open standards provide the opportunity for clinicians to make exactly the wheels they need for their own work and then share them with others who have similar, but not identical, requirements and goals.
Open standards can be used to enable diversity and interoperability between diverse systems – too often they are used to enforce uniformity which can then go on to stifle innovation