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New Software Freedom Conservancy community to champion innovation in Health IT

November 10, 2016

PORTLAND, OREGON and BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, November 10, 2016 — Several senior contributors and leaders from the largest open source Health IT platforms have announced the formation of LibreHealth, a new initiative to expand on many years of work by those communities’ volunteers through increased focused on needs of its users in critical areas. After many years of development & activity in multiple open source Health IT projects, a number of members of those communities have joined forces to launch a successor free & open source software community to fulfill their vision of improved health outcomes around the world.

The projects previously led in part by founding members of LibreHealth have been deployed around the world since 1998, with thousands of implementations around the world led by large governement agencies, international non-profit organizations, and smaller indivdual entrepreneurs. LibreHealth software will build on the best of previous projects’ software and collaborative aspects, while extending the new community’s scope beyond the EMR to software in several key areas of health care.

LibreHealth will be the foundation of a worldwide ecosystem of open source Health IT innovation, and will be a place where people can come together to build tools that enhance the quality of healthcare around the world. The LibreHealth EHR™ (electronic health record) software product, made available under the GNU Public License & Mozilla Public License, will build upon the technology of the contributors’ past projects as well as the expertise of senior contributors from those projects. The new community will be a home for both downstream customizations of this software and complementary products to flourish under the maintainership of a wide variety of individuals.

The project has been initially launched by the LibreHealth Steering Committee, a group of volunteer contributors with deep experience in free & open source Health IT projects. The purpose of this founding group is to build a best-of-breed open source community that will not only involve customers through active engagement, but also introduce radical transparency that allows individual contributors to build the world’s best health IT software in efficient and innovative ways. The steering committee consists of Judy Gichoya MD, Saptarshi Purkayastha PhD, Michael Downey, Jordan Freitas, Robert O’Connor, Tony McCormick, and Ada Yeung. Additional LibreHealth community members include Sam Bowen MD, Ken Chapple, Hannah Downey, Art Eaton, Terry Hill, Sam Mbugua, Namrata Nehete, Nyoman Ribeka, Dawn Seymour, Rowan Seymour, Simon Savai, Martin Were MD, and Kevin Yeh. Together, the founding group represents over 250 years of experience with free & open source Health IT projects.

The community has entered into an agreement to join Software Freedom Conservancy, a leader as a nonprofit home to free and open source software projects with global impact. Conservancy, along with its member projects, is a nonprofit organization organized as a United States 501(c)(3) designation, and may receive tax-deductible contributions to the extent permitted by law.

“LibreHealth represents a bold commitment by several key members of the OpenMRS community to support the next phase of growth for open source Health IT,” said Michael Downey, the former director of community for OpenMRS since 2009 and a member of the steering committee. “The formation of this new initiative is the best way for our community to be ready for the future, in terms of exceptional customer service, rapid technological innovation, and supporting the next order of magnitude of community engagement. We are particularly pleased to partner with Software Freedom Conservancy to introduce a level of professional leadership and fiscal transparency previously unavailable to users of open source Health IT.”

“Conservancy is proud to host this important initiative,” said Karen Sandler, executive director of the organization. “The LibreHealth team is poised to make a big difference in health IT and we’re looking forward to supporting its growth into a high-impact community.”

Tony McCormick, past chairman from OEMR, the nonprofit supporter of the OpenEMR project, said, “The combination of the strengths of multiple Health IT communities will allow for the creation of an open source health ecosystem for the world that is beyond the limits of the term EHR.”

“LibreHealth is an evolutionary step to create the next-generation of community-driven health IT,” said Dr. Saptarshi Purkayastha, who previously led education & training for OpenMRS and has been involved since 2007. “Based on UN and WHO guidelines, countries are building their eHealth Strategy 2020, where we see a dire need for a workforce that is competent to manage Health IT. Using LibreHealth tools, we will release skill development initiatives that will enable an open ecosystem of Health IT training.” Purkayastha is also a member of the LibreHealth Steering Committee.

Another steering committee member Judy Gichoya MD, says, “I am excited about the vision of LibreHealth that allows physicians like me that work in global health settings to have the freedom to concentrate on delivering patient care, while contributing to a greater purpose of providing the right health IT tools to other people. Our new community will be home to the radiology work we have worked so hard on for the last year. LibreHealth Radiology will provide the first comprehensive open source radiology information system and reporting framework for use in limited resource settings.” Gichoya was a major contributor to OpenMRS from 2008 to 2016, and has been an avid evangelist of free & open source software in health care.

Free and open source software creates durable partnerships

LibreHealth will build upon the experience gained in multiple Health IT projects to create an active, vibrant free and open source software organization that leverages radically open transparency and global collaboration.

As a collaborative community for free & open source software projects in the Health IT world, LibreHealth offers a home for a variety of solutions. In addition to its Toolkit™, EHR™, and Radiology products, the organization is also pleased to announce its partnership with mUzima, an exciting new Android-based mHealth platform. Members of this vibrant project will be joining the LibreHealth community to increase their project’s footprint and grow their community of contributors. Additional projects can be created or join the community through the LibreHealth Incubation Program.

“Our team is truly excited to collaborate as part of the LibreHealth family,” said Ada Yeung, an OpenMRS contributor since 2006 and project leader for mUzima. “We all share the same vision of improved healthcare outcomes using open source technology, and look forward to the benefits of such an open, welcoming community.”

LibreHealth is also actively forging partnerships with international free and open source software organizations to help extend its reach and value to stakeholders. “From government to the private sector, countries throughout Asia are beginning to embrace FOSS initiatives like LibreHealth that enable them to collaborate globally to improve their societies & quality of life. We have long supported the work of the individuals in this community, and we are proud to support LibreHealth in this endeavor,” said Hong Phuc Dang, lead organizer of FOSSASIA, the continent’s leading open source organization. LibreHealth is partnering with FOSSASIA to participate in Google Code-In, a contest through January 2017 that introduces secondary school students to open source. More information about participating in Google Code-In is available at the LibreHealth Forums.

Education and training a core community mission

Through the LibreHealth Education Partners Program™ (EPP) the community will work collaboratively with universities and training institutions around the world to increase the number of skilled informaticians who can integrate Health IT systems to improve healthcare outcomes.

“We are committed to using LibreHealth software to help train our students on cutting edge Health IT systems”, said Martin Were, MD, director of the Moi University Institute of Biomedical Informatics in Kenya. “For over a decade, our institution has been a supporter of open source software for healthcare, and we’re extremely excited to work with LibreHealth to increase capacity development for our students and for all of those we serve here in Kenya.”

Josette Jones, PhD, director of health informatics at Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, stated: “Health IT enhances human health and well-being and delivers more efficient and safer patient care. We are pleased to be named a LibreHealth Education Partner and look forward to using the community’s software to train our students using cutting-edge technology.”

More information about participating in LibreHealth EPP™ will be made available in the coming weeks.

LibreHealth software development already underway

The community is pleased to announce the upcoming availability of LibreHealth Toolkit™ 1.12 LTS, which is fully-compatible with previous installations of OpenMRS Platform 1.12. The “LTS” endorsement indicates long term support — the LibreHealth community has committed to supporting this version of the software with bug fixes & security patches for an additional 3 years. Customer support for Toolkit™ 1.12 LTS will be available from the volunteer community at https://forums.librehealth.io/ through the end of 2019.

Later this quarter, a preview release of LibreHealth EHR™ will be made available for download, providing health care facilities access to tools to improve the quality of care without requiring extensive customizations & programming. Existing developers from the community’s predecessor projects — as well as new contributors wishing to contribute to the project — are encouraged to join the LibreHealth Forums to participate. Beyond programming needs, the community is looking for people to assist with documentation, testing, translation, support, and marketing. People of all background & skills are welcome!

More information about LibreHealth, including details about software releases as well as all community communication, will be available on the project’s web site at https://librehealth.io/ and community forums at https://forums.librehealth.io/.

About LibreHealth

LibreHealth is an independent self-governing free & open source software community founded by leading members of major Health IT projects. It builds on a decade of dedication and hard work by contributors to those earlier projects, and was created to expand the communities’ impact to all types of Health IT, leveraging its values of active user engagement & radically open transparency. Participation in the LibreHealth community is open to all individuals who support our core values and contribute to our activities. LibreHealth welcomes corporate and nonprofit participation through financial donations & sponsorship of individuals to work as equals alongside other contributors in the community. For more information, visit https://librehealth.io/.

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