Agfa, InterComponentWare and Sun form Open eHealth Foundation to boost
27 February 2008
Agfa HealthCare, InterComponentWare (ICW), and Sun
Microsystems, Inc. have formed the new Open eHealth Foundation, an Open
Source initiative that is unique in the healthcare IT arena.
The Open eHealth Foundation will provide software components under an
Open Source license that will boost the open standards-based exchange of
The ehealth market is set for explosive growth,
driven by growing challenges to healthcare systems in industrialized
societies, as well as new medical information and communication
technologies. Recent research suggested that the ehealth industry has the
potential of a global budget of US$73-88 bn. In order to capitalize on this
huge market potential and to improve medical care, interoperability of
electronic medical records and personal health records by different vendors
Open source for ehealth
The founding members of the
Open eHealth Foundation have recognized the necessity to:
- create a worldwide community-driven software development platform to
speed up the digitization of the healthcare industry.
- enable members and healthcare organizations to create compelling
solutions based on existing global clinical and administrative
standards, and increase interoperability with a wide array of
third-party components and platforms.
Specifically, the foundation aims to leverage existing open source
projects to develop a platform that enables its members and health
organizations to build free open source software components and
reference implementations to help achieve a high degree of semantic
interoperability in the global eHealth sector based on open standards.
In this process, the Open eHealth Foundation will not develop new
standards for interoperability.
The Foundation will instead cooperate
with existing standard-developing organizations to implement the standards
already defined into the Foundation’s open source components. The foundation
will also provide reference implementations for these healthcare standards.
The healthcare-oriented components will initially include services for
patient consent management, virtual patient records, patient information
management and services for a standardized users, roles and relations
These service components will extend existing open source projects such
as OpenESB, Glassfish, OpenSSO and Mural.
Interoperability for new or
The foundation’s open source components will be used in existing or newly
developed products to increase compatibility and lower integration cost in a
networked eHealth world.
The chosen open source license will help
guarantee that the Foundation’s components can be used in commercial
products, without the need to open source those products. First reference
implementations will include already existing open source projects of the
foundation’s partners in the areas of security, single-sign-on, enterprise
service bus, SOA governance and registry/repository. These implementations
will also be available as open source and be shown at trade fairs and
Open for additional members
The Open eHealth Foundation is open
for additional members who want to participate in the joint effort of
promoting an open, consensus-based healthcare industry forum. While the
eHealth framework of the foundation is available for all interested parties,
formal members of
the foundation may actively participate in the future development of the
strategy and roadmap of the initiative.
Three levels of membership are
- Contributing members can add their components to the Open Source
code base of the foundation;
- Participating members can own projects in the foundation and are
represented in the board through a fixed number of directors; and
- Promoting members who have a high level of influence on the
direction of the foundation due to their significant involvement.
Membership negotiations with leading healthcare IT providers are
Wayne Owens, Vice President Healthcare Integration
Platforms at Sun Microsystems, described his motivation to participate:
"Sun's commitment to participate in and promote open source projects has
changed the way technology is developed, evaluated and deployed by
global communities and today marks a big step in repeating this model
for Healthcare Information technology. As a founding member of the Open
eHealth Foundation, Sun recognizes the enormous possibilities of the ehealth
Thomas Liebscher, CTO of ICW, said: "As an eHealth specialist
with almost ten years of market experience, we learned a long time ago that
monolithic systems cannot satisfy the connectivity needs of all target
groups in the healthcare sector. Instead, enabling existing systems to
exchange medical information will provide completely new possibilities for
Geert Claeys, Agfa HealthCare’s Technology Manager,
stated: “Quality and efficiency improvement of healthcare provision is
hampered by a lack of a common open infrastructure, accessible for care
providers, patients and other stakeholders. The foundation aims to tackle
this need, offering the ehealth community the necessary foothold and
opportunity to grow.
This will, in turn, allow vendors to focus their
efforts on delivering software applications that bring value to the end