The impressive growth of Open Health Tools

Secure, reliable messaging on HL7, under open source, will give the medical software field a common language

Back in 2008 I was lucky enough to get an interview with Skip McGaughey to talk about his new open source health care project, Open Health Tools.

McGaughey, who earned fame launching Eclipse while with IBM, had retired to Asheville and was looking for a way to be of use.

He's been of use.

In just 30 months OHT has launched 57 open health software projects, and now has dozens of members, some of which came out of the medical software field, others best known for their open source work.

Last month the group brought in Chris Mackie from the Andrew Mellon Foundation as its chief innovation officer, assuring a succession plan and continued growth. Mackie is based in Princeton, New Jersey and also gives OHT a physical presence closer to the center of the industry.

The most active project is HL7 Static Modeler Designer, which is now hosted at CollabNet. The goal is to build an HL7 message modeling tool under Eclipse.

This is important, because HL7 codes are how doctors and hospitals get paid. What they do is defined by the codes, which insurers process into bills. They are at the heart of every Electronic Medical Record (EMR) package out there, not to mention the Health Internet.

Secure, reliable messaging on HL7, under open source, will give the medical software field a common language, allowing for interoperability and an end to having to fill out your medical profile each time you see a new doctor.

HL7 tooling was among the group's charter projects, approved in 2007, and the progress being made is tremendous. All sorts of vendors are benefiting from this work, as are hospitals, doctors, and patients.

I had hope when I first interviewed Mr. McGaughey and I am pleased to report that the hope has become a reality.


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