Developers Show Dedication to Improving Health Care at 2010 OSCON
Last week we travelled to Portland, Ore., to check out some of the sessions at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). If you aren’t intimately involved in the field of technology, you’ve probably never heard of OSCON, which is an annual event that has pretty much become a mandatory pilgrimage for those at the cutting edge of software development. So why were we there? And what does a conference geared primarily for IT professionals have to do with health care?
To answer both questions: We are constantly searching for ideas that can lead to transformative change in health care, some of which originate from nontraditional sources. OSCON was the perfect conference to foster some of these unconventional ideas, as it included – for the first year ever – a dedicated health care track, which we also helped sponsor. Bringing together some of the most brilliant minds from the open source community to take on the biggest challenges facing health care IT just made sense.
One of the numerous leaders in health care IT that we saw speak at the health care track included Sam Faus, who discussed how Pioneer national program Project HealthDesign’s Common Platform enabled the development of several innovative personal health applications. Other notable speakers included Google Health co-creator and chief strategest Roni Zeiger, who discussed the future of his company’s personal health record (PHR) platform, and Phillip Longman from the New America Foundation, who detailed how the VA used an electronic medical record (EMR) application suite to dramatically improve patient care while simultaneously controlling costs.
On the other side of the podium, the reaction from the audience during Q&A sessions was a source of inspiration. Although the standing room only crowd – consisting mostly of developers and hospital CIOs –voiced some concerns over technical issues like meaningful use standards and the lack of interoperability of current EMR platforms and systems, they also echoed feelings of profound excitement to be involved in a field that has so much potential to create lasting change.
More importantly, many of those in the audience seemed to get – and were passionate about – the concept of patient-centered care. During one Q&A, a developer asked the presenter what would happen if the PHR platform he built his mobile health application on ceased to exist in five years. To paraphrase his question, the developer asked: “Sure, I care what happens to my app if your platform goes away. But more importantly, what happens to all of the patient’s data that he’s been using my application to track? Will he just lose it?” It was reassuring to see such thought and respect given to a complete stranger’s health data from this developer, who clearly recognized the importance of his work.
Leaving OSCON, it was evident that the developer community (both open source and enterprise) can greatly influence the way data are tracked, monitored and applied to improve the quality of care and people’s overall health.