Chris Netherton, M.D.

Open Source - Opening New Opportunities


One of the most exciting and transformational movements happening in the NHS right now is the Open Source Programme. The Open Source Programme is about making best practice IT solutions in health and care accessible to all. Open source is based on the principle of four software freedoms –freedom to use, freedom to redistribute copies, freedom to understand how it works and adapt it and, lastly, freedom to make and share improvements with anyone.

NHS England believes this flexibility makes open source software particularly suitable for use within the healthcare industry where, through active collaboration between IT suppliers and user/clinician communities, solutions can be fine tuned and developed to bring maximum benefits to the delivery of healthcare.

Due to the vast configurability of open source software, Trusts have more control over the system. These modifications allow the technology to be completely bespoke to the Trust’s needs.

This is potentially hugely empowering to healthcare professionals who can have more input on software improvements and uses. This will bridge the gap between staff and technology, which will be critical for matters like the Paperless 2020 initiative. Of course, we have all seen open source technology succeed in many other fields. WordPress is especially well known, but other examples include Magento, the eCommerce shopping platform, Zimbra, the email and messaging server, and MySQL (now owned by Oracle), a popular relational database.

There is a particularly close fit between open source and healthcare. Open source runs on the philosophy of universally shared knowledge and this has been at the heart of the practice of medicine right back to Hippocrates. The philosophy of both is that new ideas and solutions are combined and promoted for the community’s benefit.

In the technology industry, we face new challenges regarding how to seize this emerging opportunity and make it work for all in a way that is sustainable.

At Microtest, we thrive on challenges and we are looking forward to evolving over time to include open source within our approach as well as embracing all other latest opportunities.