OpenVistA information system for hospitals and medical care
It is quite common to expect the availability of free and open-source software for common needs, such as an operating system and an office suite. What is the situation when your needs are much more advanced? Such as, when you are looking for an information system for a hospital?
Luckily, there is such a software package for an information system for hospital needs, called OpenVistA. OpenVistA comes from VistA, a public-funded medical system for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Due to the source of the funding, the source code of the medical system has been available with a liberal license, and gave birth to OpenVistA.
An interesting issue with OpenVistA is that the backend is written with the MUMPS programming language. This programming language is quite old with syntax dissimilar to modern languages. However, MUMPS has become popular in medical care systems and especially VistA. There are people that criticize the programming language; it is important to understand that a big piece of software working well has much more weight over the language preferences. In addition, the front-end is what the end-user uses, and in our case it is written with modern programming languages.
Traditionally, the major front-end of OpenVistA was written in Delphi. Quite recently, a new front-end has been written, in Mono. Thanks to Mono, the front-end is cross-platform and supports i18n (the front-end can be translated in many written languages).
You can try out OpenVistA straight away by downloading the OpenVistA VMWare appliance (image file that contains an installation of an operating system, configured and ready to use). The specific VMWare appliance is based on Xubuntu.
Software for hospitals is quite expensive, and is a lucrative business for software houses. However, when one takes into account that in many countries hospitals are public-funded, it is easy to understand how important it is to use free and open-source software in this case. Sadly, in many cases, hospitals make ad-hoc agreements for such software, resulting to inefficient use of public funds.