The Stimulus Bill and Its Impact on FOSS

WSM: Code Red

Phillip Longman recently wrote an interesting article for the Washington Monthly about Obama’s Stimulus Bill and its impact to the implementation of FOSS in the American health care system.

Titled “Code Red – How software companies could screw up Obama’s health care reform” he gives introductorily a short overview about the drawbacks of the current health care system and the idea behind Obama’s Stimulous Bill aka American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

He subsequently provides detailed insights about Electronic Medical Record (EMR) implementations across the U.S. in which the adoption of FOSS has considerably increased the quality of care and reduced costs in contrast to proprietary EMR solutions.

His actual point is that the bill and the thereby provided money (about $ 20 billion) is about to be restricted only to proprietary EMR software companies in case their lobbying succeeds.

This is on one hand due to the not so clear definition of the term “meaningful use of certified software” in the ARRA (see pages 467-96). The commercial vendors are now trying to persuade the regulators so that the “meaningful use” of software is proven by a certification process. The responsible institution for that could be – and in their eyes should be – the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) that is according to the author “… largely funded and staffed by the very industry whose products it is supposed to certify”. The about page of the CCHIT states it like this: “…with capital contributions and in-kind staff support from a collaboration of three health IT associations: the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and The National Alliance for Health Information Technology (Alliance).”

On the other hand – even if the vendors will not succeed with their strategy – they will have much better means of marketing and sales to get their slice of the cake. P. Longman doubts that this will contribute to the process of improving the quality of care and making the health care system more effective – the original idea of the Stimulus Bill.

Concluding he suggest “… to take the stimulus money off the table …” until the details are clearly defined and the potentials of Open Source health IT have been analyzed by a federal interagency study that should be available until in 2010.

The article has quite some length, still it is absolutely worth reading … as beside the political debate it clearly constitutes the advantages of FOSS in health care.

[found via Crossover Healthcare]

For more information about the in the article mentioned “VistA” EMR software see:

A comprehensive listing of medical FOSS projects is available at