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Microsoft’s GitHub Acquisition Impacts Healthcare Open Source Dev

Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub could impact organizations who use healthcare open source code to develop and improve health IT infrastructure.

healthcare open source

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Microsoft announced its acquisition of GitHub, the web-based open source hosting service. Many healthcare organizations use GitHub for health IT related source code, so the acquisition could impact how organizations access and use healthcare open source code.

Microsoft is expected to acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion in Microsoft stock, and the deal will likely close by the end of 2018.

"Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. "We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world's most pressing challenges."

It seems like a large technology company buying an open source community would add restrictions to which open source tools are hosted on it, Microsoft assures that GitHub will retain its “developer-first ethos and will operate independently.” 

Bringing Microsoft’s developer tools to a new audience and accelerating the enterprise uses of GitHub are the acquisition’s main goals.

GitHub was founded in 2008 and has since served as a web-based hosting service for computer code. The hosted open source code is available for free and allows developers to take code that’s already written and change it to meet their needs or improve upon it and share it with the community. This method warrants high levels of collaboration and faster innovation.

GitHub was originally intended for independent developers, but over the years enterprise organizations - and even healthcare vendors - have utilized GitHub for its millions of repositories of open source resources.

As of March 2018, GitHub reported 28 million developers in its community wit 85 million code repositories, making it the largest host of source code in the world.

Open source means the source code is freely accessible to anyone. This encourages the creation and development of multiple platforms using the same standard.

Open source allows organizations to develop or change software to make it compatible and interoperable. This may help provider organizations avoid many of the data interoperability issues that have made it difficult to exchange health information between electronic health records and other health IT systems.

Open source is used in healthcare because it’s the key to fast health IT innovation that can help organizations defeat some of its most pressing digital challenges, such as interoperability and security. Multiple developers and organizations are working on the same problems, so they are able to collaborate through an open source community.

Organizations can use open source code to work with other vendors, so the software they develop can be written to work with legacy systems.

Healthcare organizations tend to hang onto legacy systems and equipment. Providers that may not have the budget to replace legacy systems are given the opportunity to take advantage of more advanced technology with open source.

The CMS managed Healthcare.gov has made all of its source code available on GitHub and all of its content available through an application programming interface (API). EHR vendors Epic and Cerner also have open source code available on GitHub as well.

The general consensus of the acquisition is that Microsoft will pivot GitHub to be more enterprise oriented, which could be a good thing for healthcare providers.

A more structured open source library could help providers feel more secure about the code they use. However, other developers might choose to leave GitHub if the environment changes too much.

This acquisition proves the value of open source development in enterprise environments. Healthcare organizations in particular can share their developments with other providers to improve technology industry wide.


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