The Role of Free/Libre and Open Source Software in Learning Health Systems

Yearb Med Inform. 2017 Aug;26(1):53-58. doi: 10.15265/IY-2017-006. Epub 2017 Sep 11.


Objective: To give an overview of the role of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) in the context of secondary use of patient data to enable Learning Health Systems (LHSs). Methods: We conducted an environmental scan of the academic and grey literature utilising the MedFLOSS database of open source systems in healthcare to inform a discussion of the role of open source in developing LHSs that reuse patient data for research and quality improvement. Results: A wide range of FLOSS is identified that contributes to the information technology (IT) infrastructure of LHSs including operating systems, databases, frameworks, interoperability software, and mobile and web apps. The recent literature around the development and use of key clinical data management tools is also reviewed. Conclusions: FLOSS already plays a critical role in modern health IT infrastructure for the collection, storage, and analysis of patient data. The nature of FLOSS systems to be collaborative, modular, and modifiable may make open source approaches appropriate for building the digital infrastructure for a LHS.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics
  • Medical Informatics Applications*
  • Software*

Grant support

Funding Statement CP is funded by the Health Systems Research Initiative grant (MR/N005600/1) jointly supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust (WT).