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OpenEyes – an eye-opener for hospitals

So great is the grip of proprietary operating systems and software on the UK that open source success stories are hard to find.

However, the UK isn’t a complete desert for open source.

OpenEyes logoLast week Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site, reported that hospitals in the UK and beyond are showing interest in the OpenEyes patient record system that has been developed as open source software at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital, according to Bill Aylward, one of the main developers and a consultant ophthalmic surgeon. Earlier in November, OpenEyes was one of the main sponsors of the open source workshops and presentations taking place at the EHI Live 2013 conference in Birmingham.

OpenEyes is a web-based patient records system for ophthalmology, providing clinicians with one place for all the information they need about their patient. The system is an open source project and has received contributions from hospitals, institutions, academic departments and private companies. The software is suitable for deployment in a range of settings from small ophthalmic units to specialist hospitals.

The OpenEyes patient record system is currently in use in all satellites of Moorfields Hospital. It is also being used in hospitals in Cardiff and Maidstone, whilst eye specialists inside and outside the UK are interested, according to Bill Aylward.

However, the majority of NHS IT departments – like much of the British public sector – are uncomfortable installing and maintaining open source software.

Nevertheless, Aylward states that this is likely to change as the controlling body for the NHS in England is actively promoting the use of open source products. It mentioned OpenEyes as an exemplar project in ‘Safer hospitals, safer wards’ – its recent call for funding applications.

Aylward and others have started an business to supply OpenEyes to UK health service providers that are unable to install it themselves. “We [have] also established the OpenEyes Foundation, a not-for profit body whose role is to co-ordinate development and quality assure releases,” he declares.

OpenEyes is currently at version 1.5 and now covers the three major sub-specialisms in ophthalmology: cataracts, glaucoma and medical retina. The developers’ ultimate aim is to support all areas of ophthalmology.