How Open Source Electronic Patient Records Deliver Better Software

IMS MAXIMSThe clinical and business benefits of the use of open source software in the NHS have been laid out in full in a challenging white paper from healthcare software pioneer IMS MAXIMS. The firm's research director Paul Cooper has dispelled the myths surrounding open source software for the NHS and other healthcare providers by showing how its use can lead to greater clinical engagement, more flexible development, and greater value for money.

Having released its own software as an open source product called openMAXIMS in 2014, UK hospitals can download and adapt their own electronic patient record for free from platforms such as GitHub. Implementation support can be bought from IMS MAXIMS or other suppliers, removing the dangers of vendor lock-in that affects many in UK health.

This is central to an open source philosophy of sharing knowledge for the greater good that is common to both medical practice and open technology, and which is enshrined in the British Medical Association’s updated Hippocratic Oath which commits healthcare professionals to share their knowledge with others.

The paper supports the NHS drive to encouraging hospitals and other NHS trusts to consider open source technology when looking at software solutions, and which has reached major milestones through the UK launch of an open source vendor neutral archive (VNA) in April, as well as the creation of openMAXIMS Community Interest Company (CIC) in February. This social enterprise, formed by three NHS trusts, will lead the development of an open source electronic patient record system for the NHS. It will act as “code custodians” and help other trusts embrace an approach that will share knowledge and expertise in the interests of people, patients and professionals.

The open source approach “brings an element of choice into the market place for trusts, because they’re no longer locked into a single format or a single supplier,” said Peter Coates, NHS England's open source programme manager, about the VNA launch. The same principles hold true for using open source software for patient records.

"Open source software enables the collective aggregation and pooling of knowledge, skills and expertise from across a range of disciplines that can help identify errors, speed up development and encourage collaboration. Just as doctors do when thy commit to sharing healthcare knowledge as part of their professional standards, the users and developers of open source software are all contributing to the greater good," said Cooper.

IMS MAXIMS is one of those leading the open source movement by releasing the software code for its electronic patient record as open source. Contract agreements for the openMAXIMS solution set have since been announced by Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Ramsay Healthcare.

Malcolm Senior, IT director at Taunton, one of the three trusts in the openMAXIMS CIC said taking an open source approach enables "a greater level of ownership and control" in the development of the electronic patient record.

The trust is due to become the first acute NHS trust to implement an open source EPR. "Open source is certainly making a mark on the healthcare industry. If it is successfully implemented, advocated by clinicians, and ticks all the financial boxes - what would be the reasons against using it in your hospital?

"I accept it is a different option. But isn’t the definition of madness doing the same thing and expecting different results? Why not look at a new way of providing trusts with a greater level of ownership and control over the software they use?" continued Senior.

"Some may fear that going open source leaves an organisation open to hackers and involve poor quality software. The exact opposite is the case, as this white paper shows," he said.

"We aim to put patients first by using technology to reduce errors and prevent harm," said Shane Tickell, chief executive of IMS MAXIMS. "Making our solutions available as open source means many more people can develop the code to meet their local needs. There is no one size fits all approach to healthcare, and open source technology is another option for healthcare providers to meet their clinical requirements for better, safer care."

The white paper is available for download from the IMS MAXIMS website - http://www.imsmaxims.com/whitepaper/

About openMAXIMS
Electronic patient record (EPR) provider IMS MAXIMS released the open source code for its full MAXIMS suite, including its electronic patient record and patient administration system (PAS) free of charge to the NHS in June 2014. Earlier this year, IMS MAXIMS was named the only open source EPR and PAS supplier in a 'catalogue' designed to support NHS England's technology fund two, officially called the Integrated Digital Care Fund.

About NHS England Open Source
NHS England is working with a number of suppliers and NHS trusts to deliver a range of digital solutions to the care community. Its Code4Health programme aims to build on the growing movement of like-minded individuals and organisations who want to come together to share ideas, change working practice and build solutions to improve healthcare.

About IMS MAXIMS
IMS MAXIMS is an electronic patient record provider working towards better, safer patient care. Specialists in developing clinical and administrative software solutions for healthcare providers, IMS MAXIMS currently supports more than 150 organisations, 11 million patient records in the UK, and 1.9 million patient records in Ireland, approx 50% of the population, as well as 20,000 users of IMS MAXIMS products.

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