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The Free Open Source EncounterPRO-OS EMR Clinical Groupware for Pediatrics and Primary Care Website

 

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More About What This Means for Current Users
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TOPIC: More About What This Means for Current Users
#18
More About What This Means for Current Users 7 Years, 1 Month ago Karma: 0
Mark, what you say sounds great for the potential future of EPRO, but how does this open source community work? As new features, modules, tools are added, do they get added directly to the same source code? Who monitors these additions to make sure they work as described?

And what does the future hold for existing customers? If they are running a version of EPRO that includes some of those proprietary third party tools which they have bought/licensed but which you had to remove, how would they transition to some later, improved open source version of EPRO? Will some of these new features/tools actually be modular enough so that they could be installed in this previous "commercial" version of EPRO?

And finally, it seems like moving to open source requires some significant knowledge of open source code and code design which I'm sure most customers don't have. What will be the best way for them to get the support they need with the product going forward?

-Kenny
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#19
Re:More About What This Means for Current Users 7 Years, 1 Month ago Karma: 0
Wow that's a lot of questions. Good questions, but I need to take this one in pieces. Let’s start with those proprietary third party tools and interfaces. To keep these posts a reasonable size, I will post answers the other questions in separate responses.

Technically speaking, the third party features we had to replace in EncounterPRO-OS were not any feature which any customer would have paid separately for or licensed. I could speak to any specific tool or integration you bring up, but generally speaking the integrations with third party proprietary products/services (e.g. a Welch Allyn device or a LabCorp lab results feed) were not part of the donation to the open source project. Most interfaces require at the very least a skilled technical person to liaise with the other vendor and set up the interface, and at most constant supervision of a data stream. These cost money and the Foundation will not be providing any technical services to users.

With the new Inbox/Outbox capabilities of EncoutnerPRO-OS (also found in EncounterPRO 5.2) many interfaces can be done with configuration only and no actual programming. The Foundation is committed to sharing this kind of knowledge and fostering the exchange of ideas and solutions. Other kinds of interfaces can be done with relatively easy to write components. These would require the services of a .Net programmer and are exactly the kind of thing the Foundation will be encouraging the community to write or have written and donate to the open source project.

Regarding the idea of using an interface written for the open source project with the commercial version of EncounterPRO… The internal names of the component classes are different so the compiled code would not be interchangeable. However, the APIs are very similar (as of now identical) so the copyright owner of a plug-in component could easily compile the component for both the open source and commercial EncounterPRO environments. Someone other than the original donor/copyright holder might run into license issues if they take code from the open source project and plug it into the commercial product. There may be avenues to do that but it’s a legal discussion way beyond the scope of this post.
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#20
Re:More About What This Means for Current Users 7 Years, 1 Month ago Karma: 0
How does this open source community work?

I think the key concept here is “community”. An EncounterPRO-OS installation consists of a core program, plug-in components, several different kinds of configuration, and several different kinds of content. Throw in users, and you get skills, roles, user preferences and personal lists. Of all those pieces, only two of them involve computer programming. The point is that everyone who works with EncounterPRO, not just programmers, brings sharable knowledge to the table. One of the most important activities of the EncounterPRO Foundation will be to provide and continually improve the channels available to share and find this knowledge.

We’re starting with these forums for an asynchronous but dynamic exchange of ideas, and the wiki for more how-to or reference-style material that can be indexed, linked to, searched, bookmarked, etc. We’re thinking about how best to use blogging, chat, Facebook, twitter, webinars, virtual worlds, and any other social networking or communications technology. No matter what the technology though, if no one is adding new information into a channel, then no one will bother going there.

What about the “open source” part of the open source community? At the heart of the whole thing is about a million lines of code that make up the EncounterPRO-OS application. At any time anyone can take the whole thing and do whatever they want with it except publish a derivate work without also publishing the source code for that derivative work. But modifying code is expensive, so everyone modifying their own version of EncounterPRO-OS isn’t very efficient. Let’s put that another way. You can add (or pay to have added) a feature to EncounterPRO-OS. If you add the feature to your own private copy of EncounterPRO-OS, then you get one new feature. But if ten people each add a feature to a shared EncounterPRO-OS, then everyone gets ten new features.

The EncounterPRO Foundation will manage a shared version of the source code. They will have final say over what new or changed code gets added to that specific copy of EncounterPRO-OS. For the most part every bug fix and every enhancement provided by any programmer anywhere will be reviewed and, provided that it conforms to basic standards of maintainability and doesn’t contain malicious code, will be accepted and added to EncounterPRO-OS.

The exact structure and process for these decisions, called governance, is still uncertain. There are a lot of successful models out there that range from lightweight ambiguous governance rules to large highly detailed charters written in the style of corporate by-laws. We will be publishing a draft charter in the next few days that is probably something in between, but we want to encourage the community to get involved and comment, offer modifications or additions, and most importantly, volunteer for whatever roles and authority positions that the charter will end up defining.
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#21
Re:More About What This Means for Current Users 7 Years, 1 Month ago Karma: 0
Who monitors these additions to make sure they work as described?

The short, flippant answer: Nobody.

The slightly longer but still flippant answer: Everyone who uses EncounterPRO-OS.

The coding is done by volunteers or by contract programmers paid through the foundation or directly by a user. Same with the testing. The Foundation will track and publish the problems discovered with each version. If they have the budget, the Foundation may contract with a software testing service, but the people who wrote or paid to have written the new features will probably want to put some effort into testing or contribute to a fund to have it done. The people who really want to start using the new features might want to run new versions against a demo database and report their findings. The people who you pay to plan and execute your upgrades certainly have a vested interest in getting the next version tested and stable. But in the end, you’re best and really only evidence that the new version works "as described" is that other users are saying that they are using the new version and its working fine. Yes, someone has to be first, but fortunately there is usually no shortage of adventurous suckers to fill that role (you know who you are!).

And, by the way, the community is writing and modifying the documentation on the wiki, so if it doesn't work "as described" then anyone can go change the description.
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#22
Re: More About What This Means for Current Users 7 Years, 1 Month ago Karma: 0
Kenny,

We understand that these user forums on the EncounterPRO-OS website are intended for discussion of the recently released free open source version of EncounterPRO, and not intended for advertising products or services (such as support). However, Mark Copenhaver invited EHRI (EncounterPRO Healthcare Resources) to specifically respond to your last question about the best way for current customers to obtain support going forward.

EHRI fully supports the EncounterPRO-OS Foundation's open source initiative for the reasons given by Mark in his previous posts. EHRI will continue to provide support for current customers with support contracts for the proprietary version of EncounterPRO, plus offer support to any new users of the free open source version EncounterPRO.

EHRI
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#23
Re:More About What This Means for Current Users 7 Years, 1 Month ago Karma: 0
What Mark said... especially in terms of the documentation. One of the reasons that the EncounterPRO OS documentation is in a wiki format is so that many people can contribute. Add new articles, comment on existing articles, even directly edit something if you find a mistake.

Here's a link to a User's Guide on how to use the wiki. This link also appears on the home page of the wiki.
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Last Edit: 2010/08/24 12:28 By beth.copenhaver.
Beth Pate Copenhaver, President & CEO Ideal Care Technologies, Inc.
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