Open Source Skunkworks at EHI Live

November 14, 2012 by Kirsty   Comments (0)

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Open Source SkunkworksThe Open Source Skunkworks zone at EHI Live brought together a range of exhibitors with a common interest in open source solutions. The stand featured a lively programme of expert presentations and walk-in workshops, together with a range of stands showcasing open source solutions in the health care field.


In this event report, we some of the highlights from the event and give you an insight into the diverse range of exhibitors brought together under the Open Source Skunkworks banner.


Meet the Exhibitors


Hear from representatives of each of the groups exhibiting in the Open Source Skunkworks zone in this series of short video interviews.




Marcin Kierdelewicz from Liferay introduces their open source portal solution and discusses some of the issues delegates were raising with him early on at the event.





Neil Thomas from Moorfields Hospital outlines their open source OpenEyes project and explains how their approach could help others in the sector.





Malcolm Newbury from business development company Guildfoss offers a context for the Open Source Skunkworks zone as a whole by exploring the view that that software is art, rather than a science or engineering discipline and that the 'hackday' process offers a different way to evidence procurement decisions.






Mohammed Al Khateeb describes his company's open source offering and the practical uses within health settings.






Aidan McGuire from ScraperWiki outlines their tools to help users access open data and discusses how this can help stakeholders within healthcare.




Tactix 4


Rob Dyke from Tactix 4 describes the open source clinical observations mobile web application, WardWare, and emphasises the importance of open source within the healthcare landscape.






Dr Olly Butters describes the work of the BRISSkit project, based at the University of Leicester, which seeks to provide an integrated cloud solution encompassing a range of open source biomedical research tools.



NHS Vista


Colin Smith describes the aims of the NHS Vista campaign and the interest their stand attracted during the first day of the event.



Expert Presentations


Throughout the day representatives from the stand gave short talks and practical demonstrations on a wide range of issues and tools. Here the following summaries give you a flavour of just some of these talks.


Fixing the Broken Market: GP Systems, openGPSoC (CIC)

Marcus Baw, Rob Dyke, Ewan Davis, openGPSoC directors


The openGPSoC project had its origins in the experiences of locum GP Marcus Baw, who observed that he had to deal with lots of different systems when visiting different GP practices. He envisaged a world on which these systems shared data interoperably so he could choose to access the patient data through the software he was most familiar with, and so that surgeries could avoid becoming locked into the use of particular technologies.


Ewan Davis described how this initial vision has evolved into an open source project, and outlined their core aims going forward. He emphasised that they are not aiming to create open source versions of software that already exists in the market place. Rather, openGPSoC is about creating an open ecosystem for general practice. They are aiming to solve the problem of data lock in by advocating a modular approach that vertically separates the back end patient data from front end user interface applications, creating an architecture in between that allows the data to be used in a range of contexts, thus releasing general practices from vendor lock in.


Rob Dyke explained that the challenge is how to create that architecture and make it all work together. The project is at a very early stage so they are interested in talking to potential partners in this space.


Marcus, Ewan and Rob discuss the project further in this short interview:




Indemnity in Open Source procurement

Simon Phipps, Open Source Initiative, president


Simon Phipps delivered a strong argument in favour of procuring open source software, and highlighted some of the problems that the procurement process itself is likely to present. With over 30 years worth of development based around the proprietary software model, many procurement systems are simply unable to cope with the different considerations involved in procuring open source software.


Phipps discussed six areas where procurement requirements typically do not match the open source model, including indemnity clauses, warranty requirements, copyright, standards, subscriptions and cloud considerations. In each case he outlined the reasons why these procurement requirements are inappropriate when procuring open source solutions, and how thinking around these issues needs to change if organisations are to embrace the liberties open source affords. In each case, Phipps explained what to look for and gave practical advice to help ensure that the healthcare organisation gets the guarantees and protections their procurement process has been designed to afford, in a way that is appropriate to the open source model of working.


Phipps' key take home message stressed the importance of using an open source consultant to help you navigate this space, before you bring in a lawyer.


You can watch Simon Phipps' presentation in full in this video:




Debate: Openness: Open Data, Open Source or Open Standards - which strategy is more effective?

Chaired by Tony Shannon

Panelists: Rob Dyke, Malcolm Newbury, Simon Phipps, Aidan McGuire


Tony Shannon chaired a lively debate in which each of the panelists put forward their view on whether the key to openness lies in open data, open source, or open standards. With each forming a crucial piece of the jigsaw, the debate was a useful way of defining how these strands fit into a wider picture in which openness ultimately provides liberties that could benefit the healthcare sector.


You can watch the debate in full in this video:




The OpenEyes Foundation

Neil Thomas, Moorfields NHS Trust


Neil Thomas gave an overview of the the OpenEyes project, which emerged from a directive at Moorfields Hospital to become paperless, including a move from paper to electronic patient records.


Thomas noted that information is all over the place - in pharmacy systems, imaging equipment, ERGs etc. However, that information is not all in one place, at the finger tips of the clinician that needs it. A lot of it is in the paper record, but much of it isn't, which can represent a risk for the patient. OpenEyes is an open source system aiming to resolve this problem which has been designed by clinicians, for clinicians. 50+ clinicians around the country are activity involved in defining the requirements and the datasets behind it. Thomas outlined the design principles these clinicians have identified, including the need for rapid data entry, automatic data capture and initiative interface.


Thomas delivered a brief demonstration of OpenEyes and discussed the future opportunities it presents, including virtual clinics to collect follow up data for later analysis by a consultant and improve eye care, which is increasingly in demand as the population ends.


OpenEyes has been established as a charitable foundation which owns the intellectual property for the software and will provide testing services and quality assurance for the health service. He concluded by outlining the benefits of OpenEyes to the sector, including financial management through PLICS and cost savings, as it drives out the need for paper records.


You can watch Neil Thomas' presentation in full in this video:





Rob Dyke, Tactix 4


Rob Dyke provided a demonstration of WardWare, a mobile app designed to allow nursing and other clinical staff to capture bedside observations on a mobile device. As well as allowing full configuration to local needs, the app runs on HTML, which means it will work cross platform on a variety of wireless enabled mobile devices.


Dyke explained that the app can be localised to individual NHS Trust policies, prompting increased observation rates or escalation of an issue, as appropriate. Clear records of who carried out an observation and when enables full governance and auditing across all observations carried out by clinical staff, which is not always possible using the current, paper-based charts. He demonstrated the system by adding observations for a fictitious patient to show how alerts and prompts would be raised if any of the readings were too high. He also showed how to view charts generated by previous observations to get a clear picture of the patient's progress or decline.


Dyke concluded by addressing audience questions on a number of key practical issues. He explained that WardWare depends on wireless availability, and discussed so e of the back procedures users have developed as a fall back if this is unavailable for any reason. He also discussed the security risks associated with loss of confidential patient data, stressing that no patient data is held locally on the device, so there is no risk if the device goes off site.


You can watch Rob Dyke's demonstration of WardWare in full in this video:



Walk in Workshops


Experts from the Open Source Skunkworks community hosted a series of informal, practical workshops to help delegates get to grips with particular open source tools and technologies.


Walk in workshops included:


  • CiviCRM contact management
  • iOS Developments
  • caTissue
  • OpenESB ESB/SOA integration with very low TCO
  • PERL
  • i2b2
  • Mobile document management
  • Elgg social networking
  • PHP
  • Java development




There was a great vibe on the Open Source Skunkworks stand throughout the event, with all of the expert talks and product demonstrations attracting a high level of interest from delegates. A range of pictures capturing the atmosphere of the stand can be found in the Open Source Skunkworks Flickr Set.