A locum GP is co-directing a project to develop an open source GP clinical system to allow "true interoperability" with other healthcare systems.
Dr Marcus Baw told EHI Primary Care the idea of an open source primary care system has been “knocking around for years” amongst GPs that code.
“The open source model fits in very neatly with the NHS model because it’s about the sharing of ideas and the ideology of the NHS is essentially about sharing the risk of illness.”
Dr Baw introduced the idea at an NHS Hack Day held in September where he got an enthusiastic response.
He has since teamed up with Tactix4 director and software developer Rob Dyke and Ewan Davis, founder of the Healthcare App Network for Development and Innovation, to create the openGPSoC Project.
The group’s manifesto, setting out what they are trying to achieve and how they plan to achieve it, is available on the project website.
“We are at an early stage of this so there’s lots of general terms and statements, we haven’t coded anything as it stands but we’ve got a very good idea of how we will structure the project once we get to that stage,” Dr Baw said.
“Being realistic we’re talking about 18 months to have something we can show to people proudly, but the process of getting acceptance is much longer than that, it could take many years to get acceptance from GPs who have already got systems they might be happy with.”
“Whatever we go for it will be some kind of scalable solution that’s future proofed and designed for interoperability,” he added.
“The philosophy is to avoid the monolithic piece of software and go for something small and agile, on to which the clever functionality is added on.”
While the software will be open source, a commercial venture would be needed to do implementation and support for most GP practices.
“We are not quite at a stage of naming partners, but once we get to a stage where we have a package to start testing we would look to develop partnerships,” he explained.
Dr Baw said there are a “whole bunch of features” GPs would like to see as part of their systems, the most important being “true interoperability” between GPs, hospitals and other health services.
“In the current market there’s no incentive for the suppliers to work together to provide interoperability,” he argued.
“We have got a big vision, but we are aware of how enormous it is. If we engineer it right from the ground up we will have features and functionality that can’t be replicated in existing systems so eventually we hope to leap frog ahead in terms of features.”
Dr Baw said the group is looking at various options for financing.
“We can obtain a small amount of funds to get things going in an extended hack day approach for maybe three months. Once we get something we can show we’ll use that to attract more funding.”
He said there are organisations that would be interested in seeing the project succeed because it will open up the market for their products, such as businesses that build third party add-ons to GP software.
The development group is also talking to the Department of Health about the idea.
Dr Baw said the primary care market is very small and now even smaller following the withdrawal of CSC products.
The openGPSoC manifesto says CSC’s decision is the: “most recent in a long line of commercial decisions that have not served the best interest of the NHS, GP practices and their patients” and describes open source as “another way.”
“We don’t simply want to replicate existing GP systems, but instead do something radically different: creating an IT ecosystem, initially for general practice, but easily expandable to other care settings,” it explains.
The key components of this will be; an open electronic record repository; a set of open-standard interfaces; and a set of open source components which would provide the core functionality needed to support a GP practice.
To find out more about exciting open source projects such as this, visit the Open Source Skunkworks at EHI Live 2012, the two day conference and exhibition where the eHealth community meets.Tweet #ehilive
© 2012 EHealth Media.
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