Step 4: Equalizing the Playing Field
(“Open” is not a Four Letter Word; Systems That’d Suit)
If open-sourced crowdsourcing hasn’t shown you its formula is successful, you’re not paying attention. Look at Apache HTTP Server, look at Linux, look at Mozilla Firefox, Java, MySQL, Thunderbird, OpenOffice. Open source and crowdsourcing enhance innovation; support of open source allows profit. Healthcare needs such public/private cooperation to stimulate the innovation necessary for its salvation.
Of the open source EHRs currently available such as OpenEMR, OpenMRS, VistaA & Vista-Office EHR, FreeMed, tkFP, and Care2x, thus far, they are unusable for the masses. Still typically Windows 95-ish, very boxy with lots of columns and rows, their support sites are often heavily laden with tech-head jargon and formatted such that perusing them is laborious. Documentation is usually cumbersome or scanty, often difficult for the lay person to assimilate.
Wouldn’t it be great if a polished, open source EHR could incorporate a “best practices” approach for included elements/design? Everyone’s got their favorites, but from down here in my trench, standouts include:
- Eclipsys’ Peak Practice – best visual candy, great customizability
- Jay Parkinson and his creative Hello Health – Web 2.0 style, “intuitivity”
- Doctations – online implementation, share-the-sandbox inclusivity
- TeleAtrics – little known with one of the best physician or patient/parent visit summary note formats – not too big, not too small, juuuuust right
- Medicomp’s new CliniTalk – simpler, yet far more powerful coded data collection via voice, type, or pen click
- athenahealth’s athenaCollector – exudes billing and practice management power
- Medicity’s Care Collaboration Platform – share, share, share
Why hasn’t some clever bizhead figured out that the potential for a really slick open source EHR/PM, marketed and supported correctly, is astronomical? Vendors say up front fees are not the moneymakers, that ongoing support services are what generate profit. Still, the majority of my non-tech physician colleagues cringe far more at initial EHR cost figures than at the support fees. Lower the threshold for entry; make a visually pleasing tool designed for normal peeps, not gadget geeks; provide education and support par excellence – these would seem a recipe for sweeping adoption and profit.
Small community docs and hospitals could certainly use a truly functional, low entry threshold product to help them cross the digital divide for their two-thirds of U.S. healthcare provision. They need a playing field equalizer, because current vendor offerings are built mainly for the big boys. It’d be nice if some bIg BeheMoth-sort would see the value in thousands of small community sales globally, but if not (and not meaning to be insensitive) then come on, all you out-of-work developers and designers out there…wake up!
During the current economic slump: 1) band together; 2) steal a few from column A, a few from column B, etc.; 3) put together an EHR that really will help the befuddled medical masses with a healthcare tool we could all actually use; and 4) create yourselves some jobs while helping save the entire U.S. healthcare system – hell, the whole global economy – to boot!
Still to come:
Step 5: Verdant Health (Lush, Full, Eco-friendly, Yet More Jobs – “Green” in Every Sense)
Dr. Gregg Alexander is a grunt-in-the-trenches pediatrician and geek. His personal manifesto home page…er..blog…yeh, that’s it, his blog – and he – can be reached through http://madisonpediatric.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.