Ravings of a medical informatician..

Not that you care about anything he might talk about

OpenMRS Invades Googleplex

Burke and I were invited to spend a day at the Googleplex on Thursday. Despite the fairly quick turnaround on travel (so that we could both be home with our families for the weekend), it was an outstanding trip!

We started the day having breakfast with Allen Gunn. I was struck with his breadth of experience with open source project management. Despite this, he was humble, genuine, and a lot of fun to talk with. Some of the advice he gave us:

  • Start investigating the steps involved in creating a foundation for OpenMRS. Perhaps this would give us some flexibility to utilize resources with more dexterity than we have now?
  • Work harder at journaling our experience. In many ways, we’ve traveled uncharted waters with this whole community-based approach to medical record system development, and Gunner thought that a description of how we got here might ultimately be more valuable than the software itself over the long run. Seems like wise advise to me. I’ll start blogging more, and see how that works. Will also poke Burke, Hamish, and Chris to do the same.
  • Meet up with Karl Fogel, author of Producing Open Source Software. Gunner thinks he could help us in a number of ways, especially with issues around community development.
  • Do a thorough analysis of all of OpenMRS’ open source “includes” to see how their licenses impact our ability to bundle software together into a single package. For example, OpenMRS uses frameworks like Tomcat, Spring, etc. While we’ve done a good job including licenses and giving appropriate credit, we might have to investigate whether we’re truly legit in how we’re incorporating packages. For example, what percentage of our dependencies are GPL’ed? When he asked this, I didn’t know. 😦

We finished up breakfast, excited about the new friend we’ve made in Gunner, and the three of us headed to the Googleplex to get ready for our presentation. The campus is as big as everyone describes, and it definitely has a carefree vibe going on. Leslie was as high-energy and effervescent as I envisioned as well. Really very kind. We wasted no time at all, having given our Tech Talk literally 20 minutes upon arriving. I think it turned out pretty well. Here it is for your viewing pleasure!

We had a good audience with lots of thoughtful questions. We also had the opportunity to reach out and ping the OpenOffice.org, Eclipse BIRT, and Pentaho communities. A couple of ladies within the audience were part of google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, and graciously joined us for lunch. The food services at the Googleplex are every bit as obscene and over the top as the net describes. Wow…. fun to watch people so happy. 🙂 We had a fine time talking over lunch about real world issues of clinician adoption, how our framework can help with medical reporting, and common areas of interest between our groups. It’ll be interesting to see how that relationship evolves over time.

We then met up with the Google Health folks, and saw some really cool technology that I wish I could talk about. While I think there was a little bit of “magical thinking” about how their technology will work, in general there was a number of excellent innovative ideas in what we saw. We also got a personal tour from Leslie, met up with a number of the engineers on the campus, raided the schwag closet, and did some planning for some future surprises for our community.

It was a great day, which culminated in a mini-bar crawl with Leslie. Beers, margaritas, and some good mexican food combined with plans for world domination followed. After waving goodbye to Leslie, we headed to San Francisco to meet up with Tom Hubschman, who just moved to the area. He’s a good guy, who we first met in Cape Town at one of our OpenMRS implementer’s meetings. He has a good series of ideas of tools that the HIV community wants/needs, and Burke and I enjoyed hearing about his travels over wine. In short, we left acknowledging that the OpenMRS community would be lucky to have his involvement.

Thanks to everyone at Google, and especially Leslie for the 5 star treatment on Thursday. Looking forward to having more fun with this organization in the future!

August 25, 2007 Posted by | birt, Google, OpenMRS, openoffice, pentaho | Leave a comment

Meeting of the minds in Boston last week…

Last week, the folks from Partners-in-Health hosted the Indianapolis OpenMRS contingent (Burke, Ben, Brian, and me) and representatives from Careware, the WHO, and CDC for some strategic planning on developing country health information technology. It was a good visit for a number of reasons. Some highlights:

  • My personal highlight was Justin Miranda’s demonstration of the OpenMRS reporting framework. Given that reporting tools were my top OpenMRS priority for 2007, it was great indeed to see a true pathway towards this. It was also fantastic to see Justin hitting his stride with this work, knowing how much time and thought he’s put into it. I suspect that this will enjoy a formal unveiling some time in the next month.
  • It appears that OpenMRS synchronization has come a very long way since we’ve last talked with the Boston crew. There are five developers putting real cycles into the code development (including Christian, Darius, Julie, Maros, and Anders, our summer student), and with a few exceptions, their straw man holds up well as a good first pass. They are targetting an October release.
  • We had another opportunity to meet a Google Summer of Code intern: Matt Harrison. He’s making good progress on OpenOffice integration. I anticipate working hard over these next few weeks to open doors for him as I reach out to the OpenOffice community in a more deliberate way. It was exciting to see someone so invested in his project, and I got some helpful feedback about his experience this summer over beers downtown. I’m hoping he’ll find time to continue being part of our community…
  • Always good to catch up with Jeff from the Careware group. His group continues to pound out new features, and I appreciate his attitude in working with a group like OpenMRS.
  • I had the chance to show off progress on OpenMRS MD (minimum dataset), the prepackaged implementation of OpenMRS around the WHO HIV care guidelines and forms. Hunger for this product from the funders perspective is more palpable than anything else on the radar at this point, and so it must be important to the ecology out in the field these days. I continue to have questions of how a software like this will be supported over the long run. Of course, the OpenMRS community can certainly sustain some technical support, but given that we’re reaching out to a more naive audience, it will be interesting to see if WHO/CDC takes more of an active leadership role with it. Here’s my slide show on the topic.
  • I also got to talk about my current pet project, the OpenMRS Concept Cooperative. Surprised to see how folks are beginning to arrive at some of the same conclusions Burke and I have re: issues when dealing with clinical vocabulary management. Even more excited to get that first version out the door. Here’s my slide show on OCC.
  • Had great meals while we were there, especially the seafood we had on Thursday night, and the great get together we had the night before the meeting with the PIH team.

Despite all of this, it was in fact my first travel away from my son since he’s been born, which was harder than expected. Hopefully it’ll get easier over time, especially as we prepare to head to Eldoret, Kenya in September (gulp!)

August 20, 2007 Posted by | Informatics, OpenMRS, openoffice, Partners-in-Health, Will | Leave a comment