Why Open Source Fits for Healthcare

A recent survey of open source software users conducted by Black Duck Software sheds new light on the state of the open source community.  Since its inception, the concept of open source has evolved and grown so that open source touches virtually every industry in some way.  As it has evolved, it has been molded to fit industries that have historically been resistant to open source software, such as healthcare.  Many of the reasons why open source fits for healthcare are obvious, but some may not be quite as intuitive.


8 out of 10 choose open source because of high quality


When the respondents in the Black Duck survey were asked why they chose to use open source software, eight out of ten said they chose open source software because of the high quality of software available.  Quality has become the most significant reason for selecting an open source product, surpassing even the low cost that has historically been associated with open source.  In the healthcare industry, where high quality software is critical to accuracy, efficiency, and productivity, this is great news.  Open source no longer represents an inferior, sub-standard, or incomplete solution.  More and more open source technologies are meeting certification requirements for healthcare, such as ONC Certification and Meaningful Use.


Open source has an inherent level of transparency that is not often found in proprietary software


Another concern vital to the healthcare industry is security.  Keeping patient health information secure is arguably the most important task of any healthcare software.  Open source software has long been viewed as vulnerable because anyone can access the source code and potentially exploit any vulnerabilities they find.  There has been a shift in this perception, however, as 72% of the respondents in Black Duck’s survey reported that they felt having many eyes on the code made it more secure, not less.  The idea is that there are more people to identify and address potential vulnerabilities.  This leads to much faster identification of issues and faster turnaround times for patches.  The recent announcement of the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL is a great example of how an open source community can identify and fix an issue before any known attacks.  Open source also inherently has a level of transparency in development that isn’t often found in proprietary software development.  This means that it’s easy to verify that attention has been given to securing the software, and issues can’t be swept under the rug.


Perceptions have changed


Open source software has become a real and positive solution for healthcare.  Perceptions have changed; people now recognize that open source can deliver high quality, secure software.  Couple this with the historic benefits of open source, such as low cost and no complicated licensing agreements, and open source becomes an excellent match for healthcare.


Future of Open Source Survey Results Revealed webinar from Black Duck: http://advance.blackducksoftware.com/content/WRFoOS14