Purpose: Little has been published about the application profiles and development patterns of open source software (OSS) in health and medical informatics. This study explores these issues with an analysis of health and medical informatics related OSS projects on SourceForge, a large repository of open source projects.
Methodology: A search was conducted on the SourceForge website during the period from May 1 to 15, 2007, to identify health and medical informatics OSS projects. This search resulted in a sample of 174 projects. A Java-based parser was written to extract data for several of the key variables of each project. Several visually descriptive statistics were generated to analyze the profiles of the OSS projects.
Results: Many of the projects have sponsors, implying a growing interest in OSS among organizations. Sponsorship, we discovered, has a significant impact on project success metrics. Nearly two-thirds of the projects have a restrictive license type. Restrictive licensing may indicate tighter control over the development process. Our sample includes a wide range of projects that are at various stages of development (status). Projects targeted towards the advanced end user are primarily focused on bio-informatics, data formats, database and medical science applications.
Conclusion: We conclude that there exists an active and thriving OSS development community that is focusing on health and medical informatics. A wide range of OSS applications are in development, from bio-informatics to hospital information systems. A profile of OSS in health and medical informatics emerges that is distinct and unique to the health care field. Future research can focus on OSS acceptance and diffusion and impact on cost, efficiency and quality of health care.