Halamka becomes an open source believer

Halamka was, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, converted to the cause by a sudden crisis.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

John Halamka of Harvard, from the BTL blog in 2006John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School, was at the Red Hat Summit this week demanding that medicine listen to the call of open source.

It doubtless pleased Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst to watch Halamka rhapsodize about open source EMRs, especially given the Bush Administration's ongoing replacement of the VA's VISTA project with proprietary solutions.

What Whitehurst likely didn't know is that Halamka was, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, converted to the cause by a sudden crisis.

Halamka described the crisis to CIO Magazine back in 2003. His network went down and he became dependent on a single vendor to bring it back up.

The vendor behaved heroically, rebuilding and modernizing his network in a week, but meanwhile patient care was threatened.

Since then Halamka has moved his career forcefully into the direction of sharing medical records between hospitals, where the proprietary attitudes of major vendors are especially maddening.

    • He is CEO of MA-SHARE, the Regional Healthcare Information Organization (RHIO) in Massachusetts
    • He chairs NEHEN, overseeing HIPAA transactions throughout New England.
    • He is CIO at HCRI, managing data from clinical trials associated with Harvard Medical School.

If you want something done, ask a busy person. Oh, he also writes a fine blog, which you will now find on our blogroll.

What Halamka has learned in these jobs is now is not the time for the industry to be launching an interopeability roadmap. That time was five years ago.

Open source can break that bottleneck, he told the Summit, by providing transparent standards.

The lesson, I think, is that no government nor recalcitrant industry can really stop the momentum of open source and open standards. Reality intrudes.

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