The real use of Free Software for medical care is very heterogeneous, even if some fields like microbiology are better covered than others. The continuous updates of data and the addition of novel important tools for a general medical environment cannot be performed by a single individual. The adherence to a policy and the sharing of maintenance are basic technologies to allow inter-institutional software projects of different kinds in health care.
Debian and its special dedication to medical software in Debian Med, but also the technical infrastructure behind this community project, renders a comfortable solution. The volunteers behind Debian Med strive to support everybody's specific projects as well as they possibly can. It is a particular challenge of users of Free Software, to determine together with the community the available packages that already serve their needs or may be adapted respectively.
All that said about Debian, at the end of the day it is the freeness of the software that is important. openSUSE and Fedora, with slight variations, have adopted much of the principles that Debian spearheaded. We still need to advance mechanisms like the packaging format conversion tool alien to work together as Free Software users, maybe along the lines of the collaboration between Debian and Ubuntu. And we all, users, packagers and developers, need to understand more about cross platform developments that also includes Mac OS X and Windows.
Andreas Tille 2010-12-10