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How Open Source, Crowdsourcing Aids HIT Development

HIT development benefits from having as many organizations contributing to innovation as possible with crowdsourcing and open source.

HIT development

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- HIT development is important for health IT infrastructure growth as organizations continue to go through their digital transformations. Entities are interested in the most innovative and advanced technology to assist with increased workflows and improve patient care.

Open source and crowdsourcing to improve innovation are key to quickly building on technology being developed for healthcare. This is especially true when it comes to newer technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.

Healthcare organizations and healthcare technology companies cannot simply wait around for advanced technology to develop around them.

“Many of the health IT organizations I’ve met in the past realize that they are fundamentally a technology company and they can’t sit around and wait for IT vendors to deliver perfect finished solutions to them,” Hyperledger Executive Director Brian Behlendorf told HITInfrastrucutre.com. “They need to be more proactive in understanding where emerging technologies have an impact on their industry and putting aside a small chunk of the money they spend on IT into developing capabilities and skills.”

Last year the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted a healthcare blockchain essay contest in response to vendors approaching the agency and suggesting uses for blockchain in healthcare for provider directories and EHRs. The contest gave HHS a broad pool of examples from vendors and providers to get a better grasp on the potential reality of healthcare blockchain implementation.

Crowdsourcing competitions are a good way to motivate and bring together technology innovators to help develop more advanced technology quicker.

“Crowdsourcing is becoming a growing success for AI in Health algorithm development via online competition,” said a recent JASON report. “The crowdsourcing competitions are able to engage top data scientists and programmers who are not health care domain experts.”

By bringing together data scientists who are not developing healthcare specific solutions, organizations are able to take advantage of technology that has not been presented to them yet. Entities can then  use that technology to improve r health IT solutions.via crowdsourcing and open source code.

“Contributed code is usually made public and serves both as a benchmark and to move the field forward,” said the JASON report. “Crowdsourcing is motivated by the fact that while there are numerous and varied strategies that can be applied to any predictive modeling task, it is impossible to know at the outset which technique will be most effective.”

Open source also helps organizations develop on top of existing tools to customize or improve those tools. Open source can help the healthcare industry defeat several of its top challenges such as interoperability and security, according to Red Hat Director of Healthcare Craig Klein.

“Open source allows entities to work with other vendors so when the software is developed, it’s developed to work with everything,” Klein explained. “When organizations deploy open source, it makes it much easier to share data and information and to integrate. Interoperability is all about open source, which is absolutely critical in healthcare.”

Klein compared open source infrastructure to how doctors work together. Doctors collaborate with other doctors and specialists because having more people work on a problem increases the chances of finding a solution quicker.

“The same is true with open source,” said Klein. “There’s multiple people working on a similar problem. It’s a natural fit into healthcare because clinicians understand the open source development model.”

Patients and clinicians are beginning to expect healthcare to have the innovative technology that is currently available in consumer products and other industries.

Healthcare has to ensure its health IT solutions are compliant, which can take longer to integrate the new technology into the health IT infrastructure.

Open source and crowdsourcing allow healthcare technology companies and healthcare organizations to help each other bring in these newer technologies. Working together can help new technologies become standard staples in health IT infrastructure.

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