Part 4: The Convergence of Open Source and Healthcare IT

17 Dec Part 4: The Convergence of Open Source and Healthcare IT

Convergence (kon vûr jens) n.

1. The coordinated turning inward to focus on an object at close range.
2. The adaptive evolution of similar solutions, to challenges in unrelated industries, when subjected to similar market forces.

I have been reading with interest the recent announcements regarding the success of HHS to rally the industry around a “value”-based healthcare agenda. I only recently became aware that HHS had redesigned their website around this theme. Not only did I come away impressed, but also more convinced about the convergence of open source and healthcare.

Collaboration (“Building Communities”)

It is ironic that the very processes that have been used for hundreds of years within medical science to drive innovation and discovery – collaboration, peer review, scientific method of continual testing – are the very principles of reform that are being used by the federal government. The value-based healthcare movement is focused on collaborating around transparency – such as transparent pricing information, transparent quality and outcomes measures, and even around transparent processes for determining the standards by which the collaboration can even occur. Apparently, the feds are convinced that transparent collaboration speeds innovation.

Consumerism (“Power to the People”)

President Bush has also focused on the concept of “consumerism” – which is an assortment of principles designed to push the decision making and power of choice down to the person responsible for healthcare utilization in the first place – the patient. This is exactly where the focus and emphasis of any healthcare reform should be placed. This is also exactly why the third-party payer system is so misplaced. If you are completely unaccountable for your choices, if you don’t bear any cost, and share no responsibility for the outcomes, how on earth can you expect to achieve the best outcomes? Kinda sounds like the befuddled parents of the fat, rich, spoiled brat who are exasperated by their child’s bad behavior.

Conversely, in the value-based healthcare system, the patient becomes the center – and driver – of information, choice, and financial accountability. By giving the patient access to their own information, and other relevant healthcare decision making data, you empower them to become their own best advocate. You empower them to participate in the healthcare process. You empower them to innovate, as well as those who create the technologies that support this process, in ways that you never thought possible. By outsourcing to your customer (in this case, the patient), you unleash a previously untapped source of rapid innovation.

Convergence (“The open source/healthcare crossover”)

Having laid the foundation of values in general, within open source, and within healthcare – a common theory regarding the convergence of open source and healthcare begins to emerge. The open source philosophy empowered its users through the adoption of a philosophy of collaboration, transparency, and empowerment. I am pleased to see that the current healthcare reform agenda has successfully adopted these principles into a comprehensive value-based platform. By including all the key stakeholders in the conversation – physicians, providers, payers, and most importantly the patients – I believe this initiative has real potential. Even more gratifying, it is impressive to see the widespread adoption of the open source ethos as the source of technology innovation, knowledge sharing, and the “democratization” of medical information.

A value-based healthcare system based on fundamental open source and healthcare values – now, that convergence is sure to be one heck of a deal!


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