Open Source Health Informatics (UK) Conference – London 27/10/10 3

This one day Health Informatics conference hosted and organized by the Open Source Specialist Group (OSSG) and ( will be held on Wednesday 27th October 2010 from around 1000 to 1700 hours at the BCS Central London Offices, First Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HA (

This bookable event is free and open to all with buffet and refreshments. To book a place please contact Mark Elkins via

The focus of this conference will be around the place that Open Source software should have in UK healthcare and how a coherent community might be established around it. For example would: An NHS version of OpenOffice be a practical proposition?; Could the skillsets that exist within UK healthcare be utilised to create sustainable implementations of Open Source software?; How would the requirements for this be gathered?; Is standardisation via Open Source software a viable aim across the UK healthcare sector?

Time Speaker Institution Topic
10:00 Mark Elkins &
Paul Richardson
healthMotiv Limited
Scene setting
10:15 John Chelsom & Raju Aluwhalia Centre for Health Informatics, City University Open Health Informatics – A Fresh Approach to NHS IT
11:00 Matthew Barker & Zahid Malik Canonical & Fry-IT Case Study: Great Ormond Street Hospital
11:30 Break
11:45 Denise Downs Department of Health Informatics Directorate Establishing an open source ecosystem in UK for health informatics
12:15 Les Hatton Forensic Software Engineering, Kingston University FOSS systems: why do we not use them more ?
13:00 Lunch
13:45 Didier Leibovici and Suchith Anand Centre for Geospatial Science, Nottingham University Open Source and Open Standards in Health Mapping
14:15 Malcolm Newbury Guildfoss Limited Case Study: An open source IHE XDS clinical document repository
14:45 Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton Gnumed: importing HL7 v3 lab data
15:15 Break
15:30 Eckhard Schwarzat ValueDecision Ltd Open Source solutions for the front line
16:15 Ben Tebbs Pentaho Case Study: An open source Business Intelligence suite for NHS Islington
16:45 Paul Richardson &
Mark Elkins
healthMotiv Limited &
17:00 Finish

Presentation details:

Matthew Barker, Canonical Ltd and Zahid Malik, Fry-IT discuss a case study at Great Ormond Street Hospital about using Ubuntu Linux Server Edition and OpenVZ virtualization software

John Chelsom and Raju Aluwhalia – Open Health Informatics – A Fresh Approach to NHS IT

The NHS is just emerging from a decade of wasted opportunity in the development of clinical information systems, particularly Electronic Health Records.

The National Programme for IT was a centralised approach to information sharing that has failed on a number of levels. This has delayed the introduction of new systems, weakened the commercial supplier base and disheartened many IT professionals in the service. The NHS needs a new approach to clinical IT.

Some have called for the use of more open source software, and it is true that open source and open standards can go some way towards providing long term solutions for the NHS.

But just introducing open source software risks repeating many of the mistakes that have dogged the National Programme – lack of involvement of practitioners, protection of the vested interests of product vendors, reliance on large-scale service providers and over-complicated solutions to immediate and very practical problems.

Open Health Informatics introduces two new dimensions to the open standards / open source landscape. Firstly, the use of open interfaces so that every component of a solution can be plugged in and out at will, enabling a ‘best of breed’ approach to open source and eliminating once and for all the product-centric culture that has held back the NHS.

Secondly, the use of open development processes – agile development that involves users and other stakeholders at every step of the way. Agile, open processes also eliminate the pretence that users know exactly what they want at the start of development, or that the solution provider knows exactly how to deliver it.

This presentation outlines the key concepts of Open Health Informatics, its potential benefits and drawbacks, and provides feedback on initial studies and practical implementation undertaken at City University, London.

John Chelsom is a Professor at the Centre for Health Informatics, City University, London and Managing Partner at Eleven Informatics LLP. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and a PhD for work on the application of knowledge-based systems in critical care medicine. For fifteen years he headed a software company which developed some of first web-based health records systems in the NHS and played a major part in designing and implementing systems for the National Programme for IT. He accepted the award for ‘SME of the Year’ from the BCS in 2007. At City University he heads a research programme investigating, evaluating and promoting the use of Open Health Informatics for the development of clinical information systems.

Denise Downs, Department of Health Informatics Directorate will talk about a Connecting For Health (CFH) research project with York University on establishing an open source ecosystem in UK for health informatics

Mark Elkins, Chair, OSSG will introduce and chair the conference.

Les Hatton – FOSS systems: why do we not use them more ?

We do not have a very good record in deploying successful large systems in the UK. The health sector is arguably the largest absorber of funding for such systems and as such has come in for a justifiable share of the opprobrium, with numerous difficulties being reported in various systems, notably the flagship Connecting for Health program.

What is the role of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) in all this ? It is usually greeted by suspicion and yet much of the world’s IT infrastructure depends on it.

This talk highlights some of the less obvious benefits of open source. Yes its free, but consider the following:

  • Many of its significant projects are astonishingly reliable when compared with their commercial equivalents. The Linux kernel is now by a number of measures the most reliable complex application the human race has managed to construct so far.
  • Its evolutionary aspects are much more suited to the shifting sands of requirements inherent
    in the successful deployment of major systems.
  • The unusually high quality of its amateur researchers has solved many of the world’s knottier IT problems, for example, FOSS contributors in Bayesian and other forms of filtering have effectively conquered spam. If you get spam its because of the ignorance of
    your ISP and not because of the lack of a sophisticated solution.
  • Its informal support is in my experience far better than support from big suppliers. How many levels of telephone menu can you take ?

I will give a number of examples to support these and other points including a comparative assessment of the Welsh equivalent of the Connecting for Health program.

The bottom line is that its relatively straight-forward to build high-quality scalable systems at a modest price. All you have to do is to heed important historical lessons about engineering, most of which have evolved naturally in FOSS systems.

Les Hatton MA, MSc, LLM, PhD, C.Eng is managing director of Oakwood Computing Associates Ltd. and holds the Chair of Forensic Software Engineering at the Kingston University, London. He received a number of international prizes for geophysics in the 1970s and 1980s before becoming interested in software reliability and switching careers in the 1990s. Although he has spent most of his working life in industry, he was formerly a Professor of Geophysics at the University of Delft, the Netherlands and prior to that an Industrial Fellow in Geophysics at Wolfson College Oxford.
He has published many technical papers and his 1995 book “Safer C” helped promote the use of safer language subsets in embedded control systems and paved the way for the automotive industry’s widely­used MISRA C standard. He has designed, implemented and/or managed the production of successful government and commercial IT systems, from 50,000 source lines up to the world’s first portable seismic data processing package, SKS, eventually comprising some 2,000,000 source lines.

His primary interests in computing science are forensic engineering, information security, legal liability and the theory of large systems evolution.  In mathematics, he is active in signal processing, medical image processing, sports biomechanics and modelling the effects of high frequency sound on marine mammals.

He is the guitarist and harmonica player with the Juniper Hill Blues Band.

Didier Leibovici and Suchith Anand – Open Source and Open Standards in Health Mapping

Centre for Geospatial Science, University of Nottingham

Open source geospatial software tools offer new opportunities for developers to create health mapping applications more quickly and at lower cost. The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open geospatial technologies and data. OSGeo also serves as an outreach and advocacy organization for the open source geospatial community, and provides a common forum and shared infrastructure for improving cross-project collaboration. The foundation’s projects are all freely available and usable under an OSI certified open source licence.  The development of standards for geospatial domain has been spearheaded by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) – a group of over 400 private, public and academic organisations. The OGC aims to facilitate interoperability between geospatial technologies through education, standards and other initiatives.

This presentation will cover the key concepts of Open Source and Open Standards in Health mapping and epidemiological studies based on initial research undertaken at Centre for Geospatial Science at the University of Nottingham. The presentation will also cover (i) different user perspectives, e.g. public and community, research, health professionals and (ii) different interaction levels, e.g. simple data “mashups” (overlay), use of web processing services (WPS) etc.

Didier G. Leibovici, is a Research Fellow in geospatial modelling and analysis, with previous posts as statistician in epidemiological/medical imaging research and as geomatician for landscape changes in agro- ecology. Research Interests include interoperability and conflation models for cross-scales for integrated modelling applications within an interoperable framework chaining web services.

Suchith Anand is Ordnance Survey Research Fellow at the Centre for Geospatial Science, University of Nottingham. He is founder and co-Chair of both the ICA working group on Open Source

Geospatial Technologies and the Open Source GIS UK conference series. His research interests are in Open Source GIS, optimization techniques, data conflation and automated generalization.

More details at

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton – gnumed importing HL7 v3 lab data

Malcolm Newbury, Guildfoss Limited – Case Study: An open source IHE XDS clinical document repository. This talk will include covering XDS and its open source componentry covering where to use openesb and muralon.

Malcolm is an experienced programme and consulting manager with an extensive track record of delivery in open source healthcare integration and collaboration services. At Sun Microsytem’s he managed integration services to over 100 NHS accounts including Spine, delivered Sun ‘s implementation of Choose and Book at key London Trusts and went on to devise and promote Sun’s open source strategy for healthcare worldwide. At PA Consulting he delivered some key phases of some important data sharing initiatives such as GP2GP and the NHS Data Dictionary. He is also supplier co-chair of IHE-UK.

Paul Richardson on scene setting with general vision and practical steps. Paul has recently created which is an expression/discussion focal point on the adoption of Open Source by the NHS.

Eckhard Schwarzat – Open Source solutions for the front line

  • NHS provider organisations current status and capacity for change
  • Macro level: Reorganisation of the NHS, cuts, cuts, cuts
  • Meta level: Change and inertia
  • Micro level: Open Source message is received by what type of organisation exactly?
  • Dental Open ERP
  • The intended primary user group: Salaried Dental Services
  • The needs and requirements
  • Agile development
  • Business Analysis and End-User involvement
  • Open Standards
  • The benefits
  • Thoughts on support of Open Source on the macro level

Eckhard is an experienced project and programme manager who has worked for one of the ‘big four’ as a consulting manager. He has worked mainly on Business Intelligence and Performance Management projects and programmes throughout Europe. A postgraduate degree in Public Management and Administration as well as a Master of Research in Informatics from the University of Constance, Germany and the University of Manchester in addition with a special interest in Decision Analysis are his academic foundation.Promoting, using and implementing Open Source solutions since the last five years in various sectors, Eckhard is also a trained Paramedic (Nothing to be concerned about, the last ambulance shift was more than ten years ago).

Ben Tebbs, Pentaho Case Study: An open source Business Intelligence suite for NHS Islington. A graduate of Sheffield and Coventry Universities, Ben joined Pentaho in October 2009 to drive forward the UK & Ireland business. With 17 years in the enterprise software business with ITSM, BPM and BI players Metastorm and Datawatch, amongst others, Ben manages key UK Pentaho NHS customers such as Islington PCT and the NHS Information Centre as well as being responsible for new business. He brings a strong track record in BI to bear alongside a deep knowledge of the NHS marketplace.

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