The Healthcare panel at PC Forum dealt with the challenges using IT as a cure for what ails the system. Carol Diamond of the Markle Foundation lamented that IT hasn't made it to healthcare. She said only 5 percent of physicians and 20- to 30 percent of hospitals currently use electronic tools. Larry Augustin, CEO of Medsphere, believes that open source software will play a key role in solving the healthcare dilemma. His company wants to be the Red Hat of healthcare, and has ported software originally Veterans Affairs Admininstration to Linux. He said that the vast majority of hospitals can't afford the high-end proprietary system, and that open source will change the economics.
IBM general manager of healthcare and life sciences Caroline Kovac agreed with Augustin that using modern software technology and creating an open source community around healthcare IT, as well as focusing on interoperability and standards (which the National Healthcare Information Intrastructure is working on) would help reform the fragmented, broken healthcare system.
Additionally, if a large amount of patient data, including clinical and genetic data, can be aggregated and mined in a private, secure, HIPPA compliant way, some important medical breakthroughs could occur, Kovac said.
But open source isn't a magic pill. As Carol Diamond said during the panel, "It's not about open source or closed source--it's about interoperability and standards. As long as the data is moving, we shouldn't force ourselves to choose." She added that as long as it is faster and more profitable not to use information systems for end users, they won't be adopted, and we don't yet have systems that offer the value to drive adoption.