Open Source for Electronic Health - Open eHealth Foundation to Provide
Solid Basis for Interoperability
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- At HIMSS08, the Open eHealth Foundation announced that Agfa HealthCare, eHealth specialist InterComponentWare (ICW), and Sun Microsystems, Inc. have joined as foundation members of the new Open eHealth Foundation, an Open Source initiative that is unique in the healthcare IT arena. The Open eHealth Foundation will provide software components under an Open Source license that will boost the open standards-based exchange of medical information.
The eHealth market is set for explosive growth. This demand is driven by growing challenges to healthcare systems in industrialized societies, as well as new medical information and communication technologies. Recent research suggested that the eHealth industry has the potential of a global budget of 73 to 88 bn US$(1). In order to capitalize on this huge market potential and to improve medical care, interoperability of electronic medical records and personal health records by different vendors is critical.
Open Source for eHealth
The founding members of the Open eHealth Foundation have recognized the
-- Create a worldwide community-driven software development platform to
speed up the digitization of the healthcare industry.
-- Enable members and healthcare organizations to create compelling
solutions based on existing global clinical and administrative
standards, and increase interoperability with a wide array of third-
party components and platforms.
Specifically, the foundation aims to leverage existing open source projects to develop a platform that enables its members and health organizations to build free open source software components and reference implementations to help achieve a high degree of semantic interoperability in the global eHealth sector based on open standards. In this process, the Open eHealth Foundation will not develop new standards for interoperability. The Foundation will instead cooperate with existing standard-developing organizations to implement the standards already defined into the Foundation's open source components. The foundation will also provide reference implementations for these healthcare standards. The healthcare oriented components will initially include services for patient consent management, virtual patient records, patient information management and services for a standardized users, roles and relations management. These service components will extend existing open source projects such as OpenESB, Glassfish, OpenSSO and Mural.
Interoperability for new or existing products
The foundation's open source components will be used in existing or newly developed products to increase compatibility and lower integration cost in a networked eHealth world. The chosen open source license will help guarantee that the Foundation's components can be used in commercial products, without the need to open source those products. First reference implementations will include already existing open source projects of the foundation's partners in the areas of security, single-sign-on, enterprise service bus, SOA governance and registry/repository. These implementations will also be available as open source and be shown at trade fairs and conferences.
Open for additional members
The Open eHealth Foundation is open for additional members who want to participate in the joint effort of promoting an open, consensus-based healthcare industry forum. While the eHealth framework of the foundation is available for all interested parties, formal members of the foundation may actively participate in the future development of the strategy and roadmap of the initiative.
Three levels of membership are available: (1) Contributing members can add their components to the Open Source code base of the foundation; (2) Participating members can own projects in the foundation and are represented in the board through a fixed number of directors; and (3) Promoting members who have a high level of influence on the direction of the foundation due to their significant involvement. Membership negotiations with leading healthcare IT providers are currently underway.
Wayne Owens, Vice President Healthcare Integration Platforms at Sun Microsystems, describes his motivation to participate: "Sun's commitment to participate in and promote open source projects has changed the way technology is developed, evaluated and deployed by global communities and today marks a big step in repeating this model for Healthcare Information technology. As a founding member of the Open eHealth Foundation, Sun recognizes the enormous possibilities of the eHealth market."
Thomas Liebscher, CTO of ICW, adds: "As an eHealth specialist with almost ten years of market experience, we learned a long time ago that monolithic systems cannot satisfy the connectivity needs of all target groups in the healthcare sector. Instead, enabling existing systems to exchange medical information will provide completely new possibilities for healthcare."
Geert Claeys, Agfa HealthCare's Technology Manager, states: "Quality and efficiency improvement of healthcare provision is hampered by a lack of a common open infrastructure, accessible for care providers, patients and other stakeholders. The foundation aims to tackle this need, offering the eHealth community the necessary foothold and opportunity to grow. This will, in turn, allow vendors to focus their efforts on delivering software applications that bring value to the end users."
Additional information on the Open eHealth Foundation and possibilities for participation are available at http://www.openehealth.org.
(1) "eHealth task force report," p. 12, 2007,
final-2007dec.pdf (Due to length of URL, please paste into browser)
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