Open Health News Continues To Grow-Visitors Cross the 375,000 Mark

We have been very busy lately and did not have time this year to write a recap of major events related to our news web site. Well, a bit late, we start here with a review of our traffic figures. Traffic to the website continues to grow and we are now approaching 20,000 unique visitors per month. As the table shows below, the total number of unique visitors since we launched the site nearly four years ago has surpassed 375,000 and the total number of Page Views has broken the 8 million mark. 

These figures don't quite tell the story. One of the most interesting aspects of our readers is that they come to the site to do research. On average our visitors read 5 to 10 articles per visit and spent 15 to 30 minutes. These are significant stats for any website. Amazon's web ranking engine, Alexa, ranks Open Health News among the top health IT websites in the world.

Open Health News - Traffic Numbers
 MonthlyAll Time
Unique Visitors18,000 to 20,000>375,000
Page Views250,000 to 300,000>8.0 million
Hits450,000 to 560,00014.9 million
Note: Data as of 2/19/2015

What this shows is that more and more people are looking to alternatives to "lock-in" solutions in the Health IT field. As reports by the RAND Corporation and the JASON Task Force reveal, most health IT expenditures have been on old technology that lacks usability and interoperability. As Dr. Bruce Wilder details in this article, the original 2007 Health IT bill by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) called on Federal funds to be spent on open source solutions. That way, taxpayer funds would benefit all adopters of EHRs, no just to line the pocket of expensive "lock-in" EHR vendors. It also addressed the key issues of usability, interoperability, transparency and collaboration. The Stark Bill was defeated by a coalition of proprietary EHR vendors, who then went on to dictate the terms of the HITECH act.

The solution to the current EHR/Health IT mess is to go back to the kind of approach take by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the development of VistA. Over the past 40 years the staff at the VA developed VistA using a collaborative methodology that is now called "Open Source." Computer techies worked together with physicians and nurses developing and enhancing VistA. The code was available under public domain, so any staff member at the VA could help improve the usability and capabilities of the code. At one point there were more than 10,000 clinicians at hundreds of VA facilities throughout the country enhancing the code (most doing this on their own free time). And that is the reason why US physicians rank VistA as #1 as detailed in this article.

These issues are finally becoming the subject of public debate in the US. Just last week a leading US defense think tank, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), issued a white paper calling on the Department of Defense (DoD) to replace their existing dysfunctional “vendor-lock” medical records system with an electronic health records system (EHR) that is "extensible, flexible and easy to safely modify and upgrade as technology improves and interoperability demands evolve." And that would be the hybrid VistA commercial solution proposed by the PwC/Google team.

But it is not just about VistA. We have seen an explosion of innovation in the health IT field due open source communities developing and enhancing open source solutions. We are now tracking more than 4,000 projects and products. In almost every case, the solutions are as good, or better, than "lock-in" software. These range from open source EHRs, to clinical research tools, laboratory solutions, interoperability tools like FHIR. Almost too much to keep track of, but luckily leaders of many of these projects are stepping up to the plate and writing article for Open Health News about their projects. This is allowing us to extend our coverage in ways the we could not without involvement from the community. And this involvement continues to grow.

In the next post we will examine where out traffic is coming from, and then we will examine a series of great open source projects in the health field that our readers should be following.