Leaders from OpenMRS and OpenEMR, two leading open source health IT platforms, have joined forces to announce the formation of LibreHealth, a new initiative to expand on years of work by those communities’ volunteers.
OpenMRS has been one of the most successful open source projects in global health, deployed in numerous countries since 2004 with hundreds of installations, and maintained by an international community of contributors and experts. OpenEMR, created in 1998, has been the most widely adopted open source commercial electronic medical record worldwide, with about 800 downloads per week and recent adoption by large government organizations such as the Peace Corps, Armed Forces Retirement Centers and Israel Health Services.
In fact, OpenMRS co-founders, Burke Mamlin, M.D., and Paul Biondich, M.D., of the Regenstrief Institute in Indiana have been awarded this year’s Donald A.B. Lindberg Award for Innovation in Informatics at the AMIA Symposium in Chicago.
LibreHealth software will build on the best of both projects’ software and collaborative aspects, while extending the new community’s scope beyond the EMR to software in several other areas of health care.
“LibreHealth represents a bold commitment by members of the OpenMRS community to support the next phase of growth for open source health IT,” said Michael Downey, the former director of community for OpenMRS, in a prepared statement.
LibreHealth will be the foundation of a worldwide ecosystem of open source Health IT innovation, and will be a place where people can come together to build tools that enhance the quality of healthcare around the world, the organizers said. The LibreHealth EHR, made available under the Mozilla Public License, will build upon the successes of the OpenMRS medical record platform and the expertise of senior OpenEMR contributors. The new larger community will be a home for both downstream customizations of this software and complementary products to flourish under the maintenance of a wide variety of individuals.
The LibreHealth Steering Committee, a group of senior contributors to the OpenMRS and OpenEMR projects, has worked on the initial launch. The purpose of this founding group is to build a best-of-breed open source community that will not only involve customers through active engagement, but also introduce radical transparency that allows individual contributors to build the world’s best health IT software in efficient and innovative ways. The steering committee consists of key past OpenMRS and OpenEMR contributors Judy Gichoya M.D., Saptarshi Purkayastha Ph.D., Michael Downey, Jordan Freitas, Robert O'Connor, Tony McCormick, and Ada Yeung. Additional members from the OpenEMR and OpenMRS communities include Sam Bowen M.D., Ken Chapple, Hannah Downey, Art Eaton, Terry Hill, Sam Mbugua, Namrata Nehete, Nyoman Ribeka, Dawn Seymour, Rowan Seymour, Simon Savai, Martin Were M.D., and Kevin Yeh.
The community has entered into an agreement to join Software Freedom Conservancy, a leader as a nonprofit home to free and open source software projects with global impact. The Conservancy, along with its member projects, is a nonprofit organization organized as a United States 501(c)(3) designation, and may receive tax-deductible contributions to the extent permitted by law.
Education and training a core community mission
Through the LibreHealth Education Partners Program, the community will work collaboratively with universities and training institutions around the world to increase the number of skilled informaticians who can integrate health IT systems to improve healthcare outcomes.
“We are committed to using LibreHealth software to help train our students on cutting edge health IT systems”, said Martin Were, M.D., director of the Moi University Institute of Biomedical Informatics in Kenya, in a prepared statement. “For over a decade, our institution has been a supporter of open source software for healthcare, and we’re extremely excited to work with LibreHealth to increase capacity development for our students and for all of those we serve here in Kenya.”