This week we are focusing on health as the main subject in our Open Source for the Common Good course. Open Medical Record System or OpenMRS is “a software platform and a reference application which enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge.” (OpenMRS) OpenMRS’ model is based on the belief that medical information should be stored in a way that is extremely easy to analyze and is easily accessible in rural communities. OpenMRS is an open source application that allows medical professionals from around the world be able to access the records of individuals. It essentially enables doctors to give recommendations or diagnoses from across the world. In rural countries where “over 40 million people are infected with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and malaria – most (up to 95%) of these afflictions are present in developing countries.” (OpenMRS) OpenMRS is capable of severely reducing the number the illnesses, and most importantly undiagnosed illnesses, around the world. Through an open source platform, clients and doctors in rural communities can professionally present their cases for the evaluation by multiple medical professionals with access to more modern tools and diagnostic systems.
The Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property Team, or PHI, is a group under the umbrella of the World Health Organization. PHI “is responsible for promoting innovation in the discovery, development, production and delivery of essential health technologies.” (WHO) The main goals of PHI are to adhere to the purposes and uses of intellectual property, while at the same time trying to make as impactful of a difference as possible in global health. Though intellectual property may not be as effective as open source in regards to curing global illnesses, PHI is determined to provide patented products to communities and people that need it most. Their two most important goals are to: “1) Develop policy guidance and provide technical assistance on management and application of intellectual property with a view to promote needs based innovation and access to patent protected essential medicines and health products and 2) Facilitate technology transfer to and build capacity in developing countries for the manufacturing of strategically selected health products in order to improve access.” (WHO) During the majority of my blog posts, I have rejected the need for intellectual property as an alternative to open source since open source has become so much more effective in developing successful solutions much quicker. Although I still agree that open source is a much better alternative, PHI and the WHO have also been able to make significant impact around the globe regarding the health of rural communities.