The javascript used on this site for creative design effects is not supported by your browser. Please note that this will not affect access to the content on this web site.
Skip Navigation
H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality

A-Z Index  |  Questions?  |  Order Publications  |  HRSA Mobile

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


Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
Health Information Technology Toolboxes help health centers, safety net providers, and ambulatory care providers with electronic and online resources and technical assistance to improve patient care.  More>
Stay Informed