Open-Source EHR: Benefits And Drawbacks

Charles Settles | HealthWorks Collective | August 14, 2014

As open-source software’s popularity grows, health IT has been slow to join the rising tide, even though EHRs were born open-source. What are the pros and cons of open-source EHR software?

Open-source software, according to the Open Source Initiative, a global non-profit that supports open-source development, “is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone.” That does not necessarily mean that the software doesn’t cost anything; many companies sell open-source software.

Also, as an important point of differentiation, open-source software is not the same as an open API, or application programming interface. An API is a source code based interface that specifies how some software components interact with one another, or in other words, an API allows a software developer to more easily interface different pieces of software.  Probably the best known example of open-source software is Linux. Created by Linus Torvalds, Linux is a computer operating system like Windows or Mac OS, but unlike those examples, no one owns the source code, or the actual computer language that tells the program and computer what to do...