Fred Trotter is the recipient of the 2004 Linux Medical News Achievement Award. The award was given at MedInfo 2004 in San Francisco with Will Ross accepting the award for Trotter. Trotter is the founder of the Free Medical Billing (FreeB) project as well as working on theFreeMed poject. Read on for the complete text of the acceptance letter: ‘…There are two reasons that receiving the award is so humbling. The first is the list of past award winners, and the second is the list of nominees for this years award. Both lists contain some of the most accomplished technologists in our field. I have always felt that a great part of success is being respected by those whom you respect. This award, more than anything represents that kind of success to me…’ This seems like a good opportunity to announce changes to the LMNA award. Beginning in 2005, the award will consist of two categories: individuals and projects. The possibility of a third, separate, category for the VistA project is a possibility.
It is with a great sense of honor that I accept the LinuxMedNews award. There are two reasons that receiving the award is so humbling. The first is the list of past award winners, and the second is the list of nominees for this years award. Both lists contain some of the most accomplished technologists in our field. I have always felt that a great part of success is being respected by those whom you respect. This award, more than anything represents that kind of success to me.
There are several people who deserve special thanks from me and the FreeB project. Most notably there is Jeff Buchbinder, without his technical expertise and efforts, the FreeB project would have simply been impossible. FreeB owes very much to Jeff and the FreeMED project. FreeB, along with the entire community, also owes a great deal to Ignacio Valdes. His work as an advocate in our community can only be described as tireless and crucial. Lastly there is my family, especially my fiance� Laura. She deserved much of the time, attention and affection that went into perl code over the last year.
But I discuss FreeB, lets discuss the problem that FreeB is meant to address. Thousand of medical providers across the United States are using software to run their offices that can collectively be called Practice Management Software. Only a fraction of those systems can also be justifiably be called an Electronic Medical Record. The main purpose of these systems is to ensure that enough data is collected and maintained in order to run the doctors office. Essentially these systems are less about accurately tracking patient data, and much more about tracking business data for the medical provider. As a result these systems contain relatively simple accounting systems and often complex medical billing systems. They do not contain EMRs. These systems are very good at making certain that Medical Professionals are able to make a living, but they are usually terrible at tracking patient data. This creates a building crisis in a Medical Practice. Each day critical patient data is entered into a system that is not designed to handle it, creating a data loss that becomes more and more critical over the life of the patient. But this system IS capable of navigating the often tenuous relationship between the medical provider and the payers. So each day the need to switch to an Electronic Medical Record Increases, while the risk and difficulty of doing so also increases. But what if the Free and Open Source Software community could provide a migration path to a system that was a fully capable Electronic Medical Record and a fully capable Medical Billing System!? The open source community has already developed multiple systems that are far more capable Electronic Medical Record Systems than most commercially available solutions. However, most of these systems lack effective means of addressing the business needs of the Medical Provider.
FreeB is designed to provide open source EMRs with a simple interface to medical billing. As long as the EMR system tracks the correct data FreeB can provide that EMR with the means to generate standard medical billing formats such as the HCFA 1500 paper format and the X12 EDI format. FreeB also makes it very easy to address format variations.
Make no mistake, FreeB is lousy software. It is prone to crashing, difficult to use, written in the wrong language and the project itself is chronically underfunded. However it has the makings of a very successful project. Although FreeB is fragile it does work, it is fully GPL, the design flaws are understood and addressable, and, most importantly, it has an enthusiastic community of developers and supporters drawn from many different projects.
Very simply the FreeB project is alive. This puts me in the uncomfortable position of taking credit for an effort that has been guided and directed by a community of people who are usually wiser and more capable software developers than I am. With that very much in mind I gratefully accept this award. Thank you.