Top 10 Open Source Software Apps for Hospitals

by Linda on October 26, 2010

While some individuals may consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology. In the latter sense, open source software applications designed for hospitals and in worldwide medical projects are gaining traction in some of the best facilities the world over as hospital administrators seek low-cost solutions for better healthcare. In this list of the top 10 open source software apps, you’ll discover imaging software, EHR (electronic health record) software, cancer data management systems and more — all designed to integrate smoothly with other hospital software and with updated or modified versions of the same software used in other facilities.

At the same time, many hospitals are leery of accepting open source software without some guarantee that the company producing the software will remain in business to offer updates, follow-up, community and services. To find that type of open source product, look for some of the information we discovered in our search — a company with a history with an active community, guaranteed service, regular meetings and collaboration. Also, look at some of the hospitals that use that particular software to gain feedback and support.

The following list is organized alphabetically.

  1. Caisis is an open source, web-based cancer data management system that integrates research with patient care. The system is freely distributed to promote scientific collaboration, and over the course of the last five years many other institutions have adopted the system. Collaboration is a major priority of the Caisis project, with regular Web conferences and annual two-day face-to-face meetings at collaborating centers. The institutions that employ Caisis currently are located in the U.S. and Canada, Europe and Australia.
  2. dcm4che is a collection of open source clinical image and object management applications and utilities for the healthcare enterprise. Applications have been developed in the Java programming language for performance and portability, supporting deployment on JDK 1.4 and up. dcm4che offers a Web-based UI, DICOM storage, DICOM query and retrieval, WADO and RID, HL7 servers and IHE services. Also contained within the dcm4che project is dcm4chee (the extra ‘e’ stands for ‘enterprise’). dcm4chee is an Image Manager/Image Archive (according to IHE).
  3. iPath was developed by the department of pathology, the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland and the iPath association as a collaborative platform for exchange of medical knowledge, distance consultations, group discussions and distance teaching in medicine. The platform forms the basis of the Solomon Islands Telemedicine Network, in the RAFT (French African Telemedicine Network) project where it links countries in French-speaking Africa, and as part of the telepathology project at Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  4. Mirth offers open source solutions for hospitals that are fully service-backed. Mirth helps the flow of information across departments and legacy systems within an organization, speeding results delivery to clinicians across the community, or becoming part of a community-wide health information exchange. According to Mirth, “Most hospital IT departments find Mirth [EHR] quick and easy to learn, and fast to deploy.” Founded as WebReach in 1993 and headquartered in Irvine, CA, Mirth Corporation serves many of the nation’s largest and most respected healthcare organizations.
  5. OpenGALEN is a collaborative GRAIL knowledge management and ontological engineering environment for the academic and not-for-profit clinical terminology community. Their goal is to promote healthcare through stimulating the use and development of GALEN experience and technology as a basis for teaching, training and services in the area of medical terminology, language, knowledge and information and in anything directly or indirectly related in the widest sense. 2010 marked OpenGALEN’s 20th anniversary.
  6. OpenHRE is an open source health records exchange software with a goal to accelerate implementation of the National Health Information Network (NHIN) by providing health stakeholders an affordable means to establish the secure and interoperable exchange of health records among existing health information systems. Using innovative approaches to delivering this vital information, clinicians are able to see vital facts about their patients from many healthcare providers. Dr. John D. Halamka recommended this software, created and supported by Browsersoft, in 2009.
  7. OpenMRS is a multi-institution, non-profit collaborative led by Regenstrief Institute and Partners In Health. These teams nurture a growing worldwide network of individuals and organizations all focused on creating medical record systems and a corresponding implementation network to allow system development self reliance within resource constrained environments. OpenMRS is now in use around the world, as it enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge (although medical and systems analysis knowledge is required).
  8. OsiriX has been specifically designed for navigation and visualization of multimodality and multidimensional images: 2D Viewer, 3D Viewer, 4D Viewer (3D series with temporal dimension such as Cardiac-CT) and 5D Viewer (3D series with temporal and functional dimensions such as Cardiac-PET-CT). It is fully compliant with the DICOM standard for image communication and image file formats; however, the open-source version does not have FDA 510(k) clearance for clinical use in the United States. Hospitals on board with this software include Hartford Hospital and UCLA Hospital.
  9. Protégé is a free, open source ontology editor and knowledge-base framework with a platform that supports two main ways of modeling ontologies via the Protégé-Frames and Protégé-OWL editors. The Stanford Center for Biomedical Informatics Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine developed Protégé. They have received support from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Cancer Institute and the National Science Foundation, among others. They also receive support from affiliates Active Software and Pfizer.
  10. Tolven, a branch of Tolven Institute, delivers electronic Personal Health Record (ePHR), electronic Clinician Health Record (eCHR), a Healthcare Informatics Platform and a Health Analytics solution. The informing vision of the Tolven Institute founders is to develop the most innovative health informatics and service delivery solutions, with global applicability. The open standards and open source business model that the Tolven Institute has adopted facilitate rapid collaborations with other open source developers working in the healthcare and life science marketplaces.

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