The origin of Open-Source software goes way back to the early days of the computer industry. The network protocols that support the internet and the World Wide Web were themselves were created using open source. It has been long established that open-source software can be used to create commercially viable technology with the likes of Linux OS, Python, PHP, Mozilla, etc and with the big tech players like Google, IBM, Intel, Adobe, etc investing and developing Open-source software, the viability and long term sustainability of the open-source ecosystem is pretty much guaranteed.
In the past decade, the internet and computer technology have permeated every major sector and have made business processes easier and faster. The IT sector is now heavily supporting all major manufacturing and service sectors through its innovations and efficiency. From Fintech to Edtech, technology is now everywhere, and more and more businesses and enterprises are switching to and depending on some form of software or another to keep themselves functional. The outbreak of COVID-19 itself saw the value of long-distance communication and video conferencing software soar as the world switched to video conferencing apps to ensure communications and business processes do not come to a complete halt due to the lockdown all over the world. Employees were able to work from their homes and businesses were able to coordinate and remain productive because of it.
IT in Healthcare
IT in healthcare has evolved beyond just being used for administrative and billing purposes. Today there are numerous fields in which medical software plays an active role with numerous options in the shape of software vendors and developers. From running hospitals to private clinics to self-diagnosing and keeping track of your personal health, healthcare software has opened up great avenues of never-before-seen levels of medical data available to the doctors and physicians as well as allowed for greater levels of coordination among the medical fraternity.
Modern-day electronic health records allow doctors to access and store a patient’s entire medical history from the illness suffered to the medicines administered and other medical procedures. Another such software is medical database software that keeps a record of cases of various illnesses and diseases as well as the procedures administered so that newer cases can be cross-referenced, and an accurate diagnosis can be reached.
Researchers can use the medical database to conduct groundbreaking medical research based on real-world data. During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-diagnosing, as well as telemedicine and e-medicine platforms, saw a sharp rise in popularity. People called up doctors on telemedicine platforms where they were diagnosed and prescribed treatment online and these medicines could then be ordered on apps specifically designed for ordering medicines online. From hospital management software to keep a track of patients, their medication, doctors on duty, stock of medicinal supplies to medical imaging software used for computer-based scans, medical software has become an essential part of the healthcare sector.
How can Open-Source Software Help?
It has become increasingly clear that with every passing day, newer and better technology is coming into the healthcare software ecosystem. Large hospitals require dozens of medical software to keep themselves functioning. From keeping stock of the medicines to imaging to storing patient records for in-house usage as well as updating the patients’ medical history to filing insurance claims online, medical software ensures efficient and fast processing time for patients, and in a life and death situation, time can be a precious asset.
And it is here that the issue lies. All these functions require highly sophisticated software that while providing you with your required functionalities, is also secure and easy to use, and software like these can be very expensive. Hospital management software like proprietary CRM can be awfully expensive and costly to maintain. Proprietary software can also lead to vendor lock-in, and you will be forced to avail services and products from the same vendor at higher costs.
All these costs thus become unavoidable expenditures for the healthcare enterprise and will then translate into higher medical expenses and charges for the patients, rising healthcare expenses. Switching to Open-source software allows you to use non-proprietary software alternatives which perform similarly if not better as compared to the proprietary software.
Advantages of Open-Source Software
Open-Source software provides great incentives for medical institutions looking to cut down overhead costs related to healthcare software. The biggest issue with proprietary software is high licensing fees, vendor lock-ins as well as high cost of switching to a competitor whereas for open-source software, there are no licensing costs to speak of and there is the concept of locking in clients through paid features.
Open-source software is community-driven and as such are constantly being worked upon by a community of developers. This allows the software to receive continuous updates, security patches, critical updates, and quality of life upgrades without any overhead costs. You do not have to spend a chunk of your budget on licensing fees and can instead use that money for other priorities. Keeping aside the enormous cost savings, the biggest advantage that open-source software has is that they are community-driven. Their development, upgrades are all dictated by what you, the user, require from the software and the developers are constantly taking in feedback and adding features, resolving bugs that you encounter in everyday usage.
Most open-source software provides third-party integration capabilities making it even easier for your IT department to develop or even add features from other developers to your platform giving you complete control over the development of your healthcare software.
This ease of usage has allowed developers to use open-source software to develop software for use during the pandemic with exceedingly high efficiency. Within weeks of the COVID-19 being designated as a pandemic, software that kept track of COVID-19 cases throughout the world and even specific countries popped up.
How Open-Source Software has helped with Pandemic Recovery
Open-source software like eVIN has been instrumental in maintaining the logistic end of vaccine supply with real-time monitoring and building capacity of on-site health workers. It has alone led to an 80% reduction in vaccine stock-outs throughout India which has greatly improved the efficiency and efficacy of the vaccine drive. Software like Sunbird has been instrumental in building vaccination capabilities of countries with their health management software.
As opposed to proprietary software, open-source software is extremely flexible because of the thousands of developers working on the software. It was this fluidity that allowed open-source healthcare software to immediately add pandemic capabilities to their arsenal and provide healthcare workers the necessary software capabilities to deal with tracking patients, medical history, and vaccination drives. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge revenue and monetary loss for countries and businesses across the world while adding to the stress on healthcare resources and infrastructure. With no licensing fee to pay for some of the best healthcare management software in the sector, healthcare institutions can keep their management costs low and divert every extra penny to provide on-ground supplies and medical care for the affected population.