Advocate Young Man/Woman, Advocate!

Sit on the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) task force committee, write editorials, participate in government. These activities are of supreme importance for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in medicine to succeed. If FOSS advocates are not present or do not speak up at the table when decisions are being made, guess what direction the decisions will go? The power of advocacy works only when exercised.

Remarkably few decision makers and leaders in healthcare know about or understand Free and Open Source licensed Electronic Medical Record software and how it is vastly superior to proprietary licensed EMR software. If FOSS advocates worldwide are not sitting at the decision table the decisions will inevitably go against FOSS EMR’s and for continuance of an unacceptable status-quo.

So get out from behind your computer and do some FOSS advocacy at the local, state or national level. It is important. Don’t think that you have nothing to say or that the reception will be hostile or that you are not welcome. I’ll include some talking points below. Most of these committees are too confused to be hostile. These committees are often boring and time consuming so they like people on them, even and especially ‘private citizen’ representation that will see the process through. Consider it a donation of your time and energy. Also, printed materials carry far more weight in committee meetings so things like this recent article and others on this website are helpful.

Things to say in committee:


  • FOSS licensed EMR’s allow organizations to control their own destiny. Like the Bill of Rights, even though a organization may not want to work on its own software, it retains important rights.



  • FOSS licensed EMR’s are far more resistant to buyouts, business failures, mismatched corporate agendas and monopoly pricing.



  • EMR software is probably a public good like a lighthouse or roads and bridges, not a private good like furniture or cars. FOSS licensed EMR’s are essential to shifting the market towards a public good by removing proprietary barriers.



  • Traditional market forces are failing with proprietary EMR’s because there is too much ‘information asymmetry’ between buyers and sellers as well as the ‘noise effect’ of hundreds of competitors for a relatively small market. FOSS licensed software reduces information asymmetry which is essential for the creation of a true market.



  • Choosing from the list of hundred’s of non-certified and 70 or so proprietary CCHIT certified EMR’s is nearly impossible to get right. It is worse than picking a stock. WorldVistA EHR/VOE 1.0 is CCHIT certified, proven, robust has billions in research and development, 8 or so vendors that will support it and FOSS licensed so it has a nearly perpetual future.



  • Open standards are not enough. Medicine is remarkably difficult to standardize. Paper standards document’s are simply inadequate. Free and Open Source licensed Electronic Medical Record is a functional and quite open standard. Why have a paper standard that needs implementation when you can have the functional software itself be the standard.



  • With a non-proprietary system, who gets called/fired if something goes wrong? Same as always, the company you signed a service contract with. With FOSS, you really can fire the company much more easily if you do not like their service. With proprietary company software you are stuck.



  • Code escrows are not enough. It’s like saying: “the pilot died, here, fly this out of date plane with the design specs or a manual if there is one.”


Please feel free to add to this list in the Reply section.

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