There’s a powerful cover story in the July/August issue of Washington Monthly entitled Code Red: How software companies could screw up Obama’s health care reform (Thanks to Maria Moore for the link).
In the article, Phillip Longman describes a few horrifying experiences hospitals have had trying to “go digital” using proprietary software. Here’s a particularly scary quote:
According to a study conducted by [the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh] and published in the journal Pediatrics, mortality rates for one vulnerable patient population—those brought by emergency transport from other facilities—more than doubled, from 2.8 percent before the installation to almost 6.6 percent afterward.
In the context of Dark Matter Matters, this story is interesting because it shows how an open source, community-driven effort led by the Veterans Health Administration has been able to not only innovate faster than its proprietary competitors, but also more deeply involve the end customers– the doctors, nurses, and other folks who actually use the software– in development of tools that work in real world situations.
An active community of users is probably the most crucial element of any successful open source project, and nothing activates a community better than a pressing need for change. From the article, it is clear that there is a strong active community of users who would like to participate in projects improving healthcare IT, but it also sounds like there is a powerful lobby in Washington trying to push in other directions.
The article makes a energetic case for the critical importance of using the open source way to build the future healthcare system of America. I’ll leave you with this quote:
Done right, digitized health care could help save the nation from insolvency while improving and extending millions of lives at the same time. Done wrong, it could reconfirm Americans’ deepest suspicions of government and set back the cause of health care reform for yet another generation.
So how are we going to do this, people? The open way… or the wrong way?
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