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Technology / Hardware

Bringing open source to the NHS

Malcolm Senior, director of informatics at the Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, has been writing about the prospect of open source in the NHS.

The comments from Senior come a year after the announcement that Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust had signed a contract to implement the UK’s first open source electronic patient record.

Senior states that the open source approach in the NHS is not new, in fact the NHS has been doing it since the early 80’s.

However, Senior believes that the NHS lost its confidence in being able to do the work in-house, which led to rising costs due to outsourcing.

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Senior say’s that it is not just a matter of funding IT in healthcare, but because open source works and it can deliver benefits.

"We are doing it because it works and can deliver clinical and administrative benefits to staff and patients."

"If I am 75 and want to collect my prescription from the local GP, for example, I am not going to worry how the IT systems work – I just want to know that the right drugs will be available when I need them. Open source can do this just as well as other systems."

Senior goes on to praise the potential for open source to provide collaboration opportunities without the fear that efforts will be commercially exploited.

"It encourages the sharing of ideas. It fosters the development of new, customer-driven functionality, and – with the right governance – can help ensure the code is safe to use."

While, for Senior at least the decision by IMS MAXIMS to release its EPR code as open source to the NHS was a surprise, it has been a decision that he is grateful for.

"We are now working with software that is intuitive and locally configurable. This essentially gives back power and confidence to trusts that have in the past been limited by changes outside of their control and modifications by inflexible service agreements."

"Our openMAXIMS EPR project at Taunton goes live later this year and we are very enthused by the benefits the software offers. If it proves to be successful, cheaper and it works, then other NHS trusts may well decide to choose the same route."
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