Recognition of the improvements in patient safety, quality of patient care, and efficiency that health care information systems have the potential to bring has led to significant investment. Globally the sale of health care information systems now represents a multibillion dollar industry. As policy makers, health care professionals, and patients, we have a responsibility to maximize the return on this investment. To this end we analyze alternative licensing and software development models, as well as the role of standards. We describe how licensing affects development. We argue for the superiority of open source licensing to promote safer, more effective health care information systems. We claim that open source licensing in health care information systems is essential to rational procurement strategy.