Safety Net Providers find Benefits & Problems with Open Source

Anthony Brino | Government Health IT | July 12, 2013

Safety net providers have both succeeded and struggled with open source software, according a federally-funded study.

On the whole, though, researchers from the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found found “ample evidence to indicate that these systems created workflow efficiencies within their clinical environments,” and they concluded that the federal government should offer further funding assistance.

The safety net providers interviewed for the study use three different open source EHRs. Primary Care Systems, in Clay, West Virginia, use a RPMS-based system called MedLynks. In California, Family Health Centers of San Diego uses WorldVista, JWCH Institute in Los Angeles uses OpenMRS, and Operation Samahan, south of San Diego, uses ClearHealth. In Arizona, both Adelante Healthcare and Wesley Community Health Center, in greater Phoenix, were using WorldVistA when the researchers visited.

In general, the open source software “provided robust functionality” for clinical management and financial administration, including for Meaningful Use requirements, and also received fair user satisfaction ratings. “Although some users encountered issues with implementation and maintenance, a strong majority concurred that these problems did not detract from the utility and future potential of these systems,” the researchers wrote.

Open Health News' Take: 

VistA, and derivative systems like RPMS, appear to be especially effective in hospitals and large enterprise-wide healthcare network environments. OpenEHR, OpenMRS, and OSCAR have proven to be very effective in smaller ambulatory care settings and physician offices. The key is that, in many cases, 'open source' health IT solutions are viable alternatives to more costly proprietary systems. To get a better visual picture of where open source EHR systems like VistA, RPMS, OpenMRS are being used, read, "Open Source EHR Systems in New Mexico & the Four Corner States".  Stay informed by following Open Health News (OHN)  -  Peter Groen, Senior Editor, OHN