ThoughtWorks recruits to build open e-health standard

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ThoughtWorks recruits to build open e-health standard
ThoughtWorks founder and chairman Roy Singham.

Seeks Aussie developers for Agile project.

ThoughtWorks is recruiting Australian software developers to build an open, global medical records standard for developing nations on a voluntary basis.

The Agile software development house last night held the first of a weekly series of “hack nights for humanity”, aiming to support the OpenMRS platform.

OpenMRS is a community-driven, open source platform, that was created by two US philanthropic organisations in 2004 to facilitate the exchange of medical information between clinical and research organisations.

It is already in use in some developing countries where alternatives are poor or non-existent, and residents have a significant need for better healthcare.

According to ThoughtWorks founder and chairman Roy Singham, the platform was “already impacting five million lives and we want to get it to 50 million”.

The company advised iTnews that OpenMRS could be used in "developed as well as developing countries", noting that it had been adopted by alcohol treatment clinics in California.

"We will be exploring its use in, for example, rural treatment facilities for aboriginals in Australia," a ThoughtWorks spokesperson said.

Singham hoped that the OpenMRS project would "disintermediate the rogues in the private sector".

“Many people say the government sector is wasting money [on e-health],” he told iTnews at an Agile conference in Melbourne.

“But what actually happens is that most governments hire incompetent private sector actors to waste the public’s money.

“There’s a backlog of features to be added [to OpenMRS], and we’re hoping those features will get analysed and coded, and contributed back to the global infrastructure.”

ThoughtWorks held its first OpenMRS development night in its Sydney and Melbourne offices, with Brisbane and Perth potentially joining the effort later.

Singham noted that the firm had previously worked with non-profits including GetUp! and Live Below The Line, and used its Agile philosophy to build an application for the Queensland Flood Telethon in just 48 hours.

He hoped that the OpenMRS development nights would foster the development of outcomes outside of the restrictive government culture in which e-health records were typically driven.

“We need a whole new movement around things like electronic medical records,” Singham said.

“Australia can be the leader of that – a resurrection of the public good, driven by Agile principles. This is something that could uniquely happen in Australia, and nowhere else in the world.”

“The Agile community in Australia is better per capita than anywhere else in the world,” he said, explaining that Australia was not “cutting-edge [but] more thoughtful about IT as a country”.

“You have more senior CIOs and senior IT decision makers here by far than anywhere else ... They’re not necessarily first adopters, but they’re more substantive adopters.”

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