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Healthcare, Meet Open Source

Though the ability to collaborate and share information is a critical component of modern IT infrastructures, it is often lacking in healthcare environments, where siloed information is the norm.

Such information is housed on proprietary computing architectures that can't always be accessed by different platforms.

Taking its cue to deliver a salve for this situation, IBM  this week said it is open sourcing technology to the Eclipse Foundation's Open Healthcare Framework (OHF) project in an effort to bridge the information silos.

"Medical facilities and doctors all have their own ways of communicating and distributing medical information much of it hard copy," Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux and open source at IBM, told internetnews.com.

"There is no good way to transmit medical information because there is no standard."

Even with a standard in place, solutions would still be difficult to come by, which is why IBM is open sourcing an implementation of a health care information exchange standard.

Handy said that because abstract specs are often so hard to collaborate on among different vendors, an open source implementation of a specification is the best way to collaborate.

Eclipse OHF is endeavoring to create a standards-based platform for the healthcare software industry.

IBM is no novice in open sourcing healthcare software.

In 2005, the systems vendor began an effort called the Interoperable Healthcare Information Infrastructure (IHII) project, which includes an SOA approach to exchange information using OHF.

"We're taking the client application that we've built and we're open sourcing it," Handy explained.

"It's about 150,000 lines of code and now all the ISVs that work in the health care industry can pick up this thing and use it."

IBM said research from the Center for Information Technology Leadership claims that standardizing information exchange could yield 5 percent savings in US healthcare expenditures.