IMIA OS WG has been formed in 2002 with the objective to focus on educational, promotional and 'evangelistic' activities to raise awareness of open source software in health care. The primary objectives of the IMIA OS WG are to:
- disseminate knowledge about the benefits and prospects of FLOSS in health care among IMIA members and outside of IMIA,
- provide a neutral collaboration platform for all stakeholders in health care in respect to FLOSS,
- to foster collaborations between FLOSS-HC projects and
- to lower the perceived barriers to the adoption of FLOSS in health care
"Being the scientific biomedical informatics association through which the world's knowledge leaders come together to effectively and efficiently create, assemble, integrate, synthesize or assimilate intellectual knowledge..." [Lorenzi 2007], IMIA is ideally suited as a hub in a network of networks and organizations already active in diverse regional contexts. Further the strategic plan highlights IMIA's role as informatics association that"effectively and efficiently connects people and the nations of the world" to bring together from a global perspective, scientists, researchers, users, vendors, developers, consultants and suppliers in an environment of cooperation and sharing to research and develop the concepts needed to support the organizations of the world seeking technology as transformational.
IMIA OS WG intends to foster FLOSS in health care by working align to a strategy that is modeled after IMIA's conceptual framework outlined in the IMIA strategic plan:
1. Knowledge: Knowledge-base for FLOSS-HC
FLOSS principles are well suited to make knowledge freely available and accessible and can be considered as a role model for "Open Access" thus supporting the evolution of medical informatics. Currently the knowledge about FLOSS as a methodology as well as the medical knowledge that is concealed in diverse FLOSS-HC applications and projects is dispersed over several projects, researchers, applications, communities etc. This knowledge has to be concentrated and made available through one focal access point where all stakeholders may enter the virtual space of FLOSS-HC. This future forge should be more than the forges of today: It should be a collaboration platform for FLOSS developers and users. The MedFLOSS.org website is intended to evolve towards this goal.
2. Science: Research and education, capacity building
The research community has already embraced the FLOSS paradigm. Open Access and Open Science are just two recent developments that share the same values of openness and transparency. The fundamental goals of Open Science are
- Transparency in experimental methodology, observation, and collection of data.
- Public availability and reusability of scientific data.
- Public accessibility and transparency of scientific communication.
FLOSS is also ideally suited for education and capacity building. Because FLOSS is freely available it can be used in schools and universities to train health professionals without the burden of license costs. A particular advantage is in the area of medical informatics education. The best way to acquire programming skills is to actively participate in the development of a system. By having access to the full source code of a system and being able to modify, extend and run the system students have the best environment to learn software development and system design.
FLOSS applications are essentially the product that is offered to the health professionals to allow an effective, efficient, high quality and timely delivery of health care service. IMIA OS WG is committed to raise the awareness of already existing FLOSS-HC applications and to uncover demand for new functionality or requirements. This is supported by the projects database at MedFLOSS.org.
The fourth circle is the impact layer which refers to potential impact that IMIA can have on governments, nations, outcomes, health professionals etc. This layer is particularly important for the success of FLOSS in health care. There are still a bunch of obstacles to overcome to let FLOSS-HC be a viable alternative to the proprietary license model. IMIA OS WG is committed to disseminate knowledge about FLOSS-HC in the health care community through organization of workshops and conferences and through participation of WG members in conferences related to health care with the mission to spread knowledge about the prospects of FLOSS-HC.
Last but not least is the people layer which includes the individual users of FLOSS applications. It is very important to integrate end-users in the early stages of development of an application and to let the end-users participate in the development throughout the development-cycle of a product. The importance of a community cannot be overestimated. Social networking has emerged only recently and is an extremely powerful tool to empower individuals and small, often dispersed groups and to allow them to coordinate their actions.
Based on these 5 steps IMIA OS WG is committed to serve the community and to contribute to the development of high quality IT solutions at affordable costs and to develop new models of health care delivery based on this open collaborative approach.
Being aware of many other valuable initiatives and projects with similar goals and at the same time being a group of volunteers IMIA OS WG tries to accomplish these goals in serving as a hub in a network of networks. Parts of the goals defined in the 5 steps may be carried out by groups outside of IMIA or other WGs like EFMI LIFOSS WG. In accordance with the core principle of open source “Don’t reinvent the wheel” IMIA OS WG will not work on issues already covered by other groups but will try to integrate these activities in a larger network. As a global association IMIA is committed to serve all regions of the world. Being aware that work on a global scale is complicated, IMIA OS WG will work together with regional groups, either inside of IMIA or outside of IMIA that work towards the same goals in a specific region. This could be for instance the local OS WGs like EFMI LIFOSS WG or AMIA OS WG. IMIA OS WG encourages interested IMIA members in regions that do not have a FLOSS WG to set up a regional group or cooperate with regional groups dedicated to FLOSS-HC. IMIA OS WG is further committed to work together with other IMIA WGs. One example is IMIA Health Informatics for Development Working Group HI4Dev WG. Other IMIA WGs are invited to cooperate with IMIA OS WG in there specific area.
IMIA OS WG is open to all people that support the ideas of free/libre open source software in health care. We would like to invite people that are willing to actively engage in or support the objectives of IMIA OS WG to register on our MedFLOSS.org site.