Free Software in Health Care

LinuxMed 2005, First Virtual Meeting over Internet of Free and Libre Opensource Software, September 1st to November 30th, 2005


Free operating systems such as Linux are widely deployed on all sorts of servers, and also making inroads on desktop systems run by end users. The main motivations for this development are security and total cost of ownership. The end users have particularly been stimulating the development of free office applications, which have a wide audience. As for specialized tasks such as managing a medical practice, there is a much smaller set of users and thus the number of gifted programmers among this set of users is drastically smaller compared to everyday usage. However, Free Software has previously tried to address several different special fields, in some cases as well as proprietary alternatives. This trend actually also makes sense from a commercial perspective, as support and maintenance require experts with specialized knowledge, and therefore account for most of the cost anyway. As such, it becomes reasonable to have a business model in which developers give the software away freely but then charge for its support. This paper gives an overview of the current state of Free Software for medicine ranging from medical practice management up to microbiological research. Moreover, it sketches how all this software will be integrated into the Debian GNU/Linux distribution by the so called Debian-Med project, and explains the motivation for basing the project on Debian rather than some other distribution.