Saturday, November 13, 2010

Collaborative, 'Open' Education Solutions in Health Care

The use of 'open source' software to deliver global health education solutions used by universities, medical schools, and a range of other health care organizations is becoming an increasingly important trend to watch. The number of open source and/or public domain health and education software solutions currently available or under development has grown to be quite substantial.

The collaborative development efforts to create many new free and open source health and education software tools are well underway. These open source products are being released under a range of open source licenses.

Some key findings from a report entitled "Best Practices in Open Source Higher Education: The State of Open Source Software" issued by the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness in 2006 include:

·        Almost 60% of higher education institutions have acquired and implemented open source infrastructure products, e.g. Linux, Apache, MySQL, Open Office, etc.
·        Open source education applications or tools being most considered by universities include: Sakai (28%), Moodle (23%), uPortal (20%), OSPI (12%), OKI (10%), SCT Luminis Platform (9%), and Kuali (8%)

The following are just a few of the many freely available open source education and health IT software solutions and knowledge bases that are in the public domain and worth exploring.

Education Domain

·        OpenCourseWare is a collaborative, open source educational content solution. For more detail, visit  
·        Sakai  is open source software for education, research and related scholarly activities. Visit

The American Public University System (APUS) is the largest university in West Virginia. It is a for profit academic institution with an enrollment of over 60,000 students.  The university recently decided to acquire and use the Sakai system, following in the foot steps of several other leading institutions, e.g. Johns Hopkins, Georgia Tech, and Stanford.

·        Kuali  is a suite of open source administrative software modules for use in higher education. See
·        Moodle is an open source Course Management or Learning Management System.  It is a web application that educators can also use to create effective online learning sites. Visit

Health Domain
The following open source health IT systems can be used in conjunction with the education packages above to create a comprehensive, low cost  education and training environment for clinicians.

·        Health Education Assets Library (HEAL) is a digital library of multimedia teaching resources for the health sciences. HEAL provides access to tens of thousands of images, videoclips, animations, presentations, and audio files that support healthcare education.  See
·        myPACS  is a web-based medical image content management system designed to help clinicians and the international radiology community share their knowledge. Go to or
·        OpenMRS  is an international community based open source project that has built a scalable, flexible electronic medical record (EMR) system built on open standards. Visit
·        VistA / OpenVistA - VistA is the comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) system developed and deployed by the Veterans Health Administration and many other public and private healthcare provider organizations around the world. See and

The rapid emergence and evolution of open-source technologies is also transforming the delivery and measurement of Continuing Medical Education (CME). Today, healthcare organizations are able to leverage, customize and integrate open source education and health IT software to create innovative, collaborative learning environments that facilitate communication, collaboration, and transfer of knowledge amongst health care professionals.

Universities, medical schools, and other healthcare organizations should seriously evaluate the benefits of including open source health and education software solutions as part of their overall information technology strategy and tool set. The evaluation should take note of the following:
·        Significantly lower and quantifiable Total Cost of Ownership
·        Continually growing weight of global public and private support around free and 'open source' software  products and solutions
·        Rapidly growing number of open source success stories in government, education, healthcare and other functional

If you haven't begun to seriously evaluate the benefits of using collaborative open source health and education software solutions, it might be worth looking into.

Do you know of any health care organizations using some of these tools? Do you have other open source products you'd like to bring to our attention?

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