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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality
Improvement

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of open source software?

Key Advantages:

  • No cost or a lower cost for licensing "open source" solutions
  • Flexibility to adapt the software for particular health care solutions
  • Continuing software enhancements available through the open source community
  • "Mission" rather than "market" objectives focused on patient-centered, population-based health improvement
  • Open architecture allows for greater opportunities for health information exchange
  • Ability to incorporate tools for personal health, such as personal health records
  • Many pre-existing tools for interface and reporting already developed
  • Tools make it easier to build generic rather than custom interfaces
  • Centralized hosting using the health center-controlled network model affords economies of scale

Key Disadvantages:

  • Often no single source to support all aspects of the application; multiple sources of technical and clinical support may be required
  • Must understand business logic to adjust configuration or make code adjustments to meet unique work flow and clinical needs
  • User assumes more "ownership" of the solution than under proprietary licenses, including initiation of upgrades, enhancements, configuration and support of software
  • Difficult to engage support of vendors with practical experience in supporting the application; often they have retired or left the agency
  • Difficult for smaller organizations to afford the resources individually
  • May require sophisticated professional guidance on licensing issues and the preparation of contracts
  • The open source solution may not be CCHIT certified by the originating agency and this may provide challenges, especially if the user is seeking grant funding that requires, as a condition of funding, that the software to be acquired is CCHIT certified.
  • Often have to adapt and develop training materials appropriate for the particular application of the open source solution
  • Must guard against information overload and alert fatigue

Resources:

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