Podcast: Open-source and non-proprietary software

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, mostly because I am immersed in a huge project for Doctor’s Digest that will keep me tremendously busy into December. I did hit two conferences recently, the annual meetings of the American Health Information Management Association and the Medical Group Management Association.

To attend the latter, I had to miss the annual American Medical Informatics Association conference, which apparently featured a who’s who of health information technology, but I did come across the text of a very insightful speech delivered by Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, someone who truly “gets” the connection between IT and patient safety. It’s also the first speech I’m aware of by a senior federal official to include a Bennifer reference. Check it out for yourself.

On a more controversial note, my latest podcast delves into the world of open-source and non-proprietary software with a lively telephone interview of Fred Trotter, project manager of an open-source electronic health record and practice management system called MirrorMed and the FreeB open-source medical billing engine. His cause célèbre is GPL Medicine, the notion that there should be a general public license for medical software.

Trotter has some provocative beliefs about the morality of vendors controlling the code of healthcare software and of not supporting legacy programs. He says that many vendors are “trapping” their customers by not giving them access to the source code.

I ask some tough questions and, to his credit, he does not dodge my queries. I have tried to keep my podcasts to a relatively manageable 20 minutes, but this conversation goes on for 40 minutes without dragging, other than during my occasional brain cramp.

If you don’t have 40 minutes to listen all at once, break it into two parts, as we get into a lengthy discussion about VistA-Office EHR that could be a separate podcast in its own right.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Podcast details:
Interview with Fred Trotter, GPL Medicine proponent, on “free” and other open-source software for healthcare. MP3, mono, 64kbps, 18.5 MB, running time 40:27.
0:55 Definition of GPL software
2:30 Definition and discussion of “free” software
5:25 Why he believes GPL is the only “morally acceptable” license in medicine
6:35 GPL vs. proprietary licenses
10:35 Making money with GPL licenses
11:45 Critical nature of medical software
13:15 Software keeping up with changes in the law
16:05 “Vendor lock-in” for customers
19:40 Trotter’s experience in healthcare programming
21:35 Three important GPL projects:
FreeMed, OpenEMR and ClearHealth
VistA-Office EHR
29:20 How VistA-Office might change the EHR market
33:30 Problems with hybrid electronic/paper record systems
34:50 GPL allows users to improve software
36:20 Why VistA improved VA healthcare
38:40 Fixing the broken healthcare system