The term “open source” is thrown around a lot these days, especially when mentioned alongside the names of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. But despite it’s deeply technological roots, you don’t have to be a software genius to take advantage of all the benefits open source can provide.
Briefly speaking, open source (and open data) means allowing public access to programming source code (the building blocks of computer software and applications) and data sets.
One of the most popular examples of open source development is the Linux operating system. This is an operating system that has been around since the early 90’s, but has developed hundreds of varieties as both professional and amateur programmers are able to access the original source code and customize the operating system to suit their own needs (and the best part – it’s free!).
A good example of open data is New York City’s open data program. You can go here to find just about every kind of data piece imaginable about the city, from restaurant health inspection grades to a list of all licensed taxi drivers and the average daily inmate population of the city’s jails.
For the healthcare industry, the primary benefits of open development have to do with data sharing and opening everything to everyone. Think about it: there are trillions of bits of medical data being collected everyday, from the newest invention in the Internet of Things, to the traditional research being conducted by Universities and pharmaceutical companies across the world. Like New York City’s data sets, these can be combined by individual practices, hospitals, etc. to come up with new insights into their own businesses and the healthcare industry in general.
So how exactly does this help you?
Imagine using Google data of the top health searches in your area for specific marketing and ad campaigns to bring in more clients. Or, using the latest research data from multiple health disciplines to come up with unique, holistic solutions to common health problems you’re seeing in your practice. You can even share your own data with other practices to increase patient awareness on topics of concern.
Of course if you’re like any law-abiding provider, your first concern about all this data sharing is the privacy of your patients. The aggregate information method of data sharing uses a collection of personal data with all identifying information removed. This is the safest way to use data without compromising the privacy of patients. If you plan on using or distributing patient data, make sure that it is completely scrubbed of all identifying information, lest you open yourself up to lawsuits and legal investigations.
The other way to use open development is by utilizing the open source code that is planted across the internet. With the right skill set, you can utilize this code to create and customize your own applications.
You can find open source code for just about everything these days, it’s all a matter of figuring out what you want to build, finding the code, and then finding a programmer to tailor it for you.
This concludes part three in our 4-part Digitize Your Practice series. In the conclusion of the series, we’ll look into the biggest concern your patients have when it comes to digitizing your practice: their privacy.