Open Health

The concept of Open Health operates at several levels: (1) open sharing and collaboration amongst health professionals to enable patients and their care providers to have access to vital and reliable medical information; (2) between medical health professionals and patients answering medical queries in online forums or sharing of treatments and recovery strategies; and (3) online communities of patients and people with health concerns sharing information, experiences and remedies (including alternative and natural remedies). One of the main perceived benefits of open health is the sharing of preventative strategies and information to help people live healthier lives, thus negating the need for expensive or risky medical procedures and medicines. A second perceived benefit is access to information in the absence of a nearby medical clinic or facility (including cases where the clinic may be closed or unstaffed due to a shortage of medical health practitioners).

Open health also includes open pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical production mirrors software production: initial investment into research and development and marketing is expensive, but manufacture and distribution are relatively cheap. An open pharmaceutical system would respond to this model by allowing for more generic drug production with direct benefits including research and development being set by public health priorities (not marketing) and more competition on production and distribution. The main obstacle to an open pharmaceutical model however is the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement which forces all but the least-developed countries to honour 20-year patent rights, discourages experimentation with alternative financing models and hurts developing countries by denying them access to affordable & effective generics.

One of the main concerns in open health is the storage of patient medical and health data and concerns over privacy of these records. Online services such as OpenHealthRecord (OHR) provide an anonymous and secure database where you can store personal health information and the means to share it with only those people and medical professionals you choose. A secondary benefit of a system such as OHR is a growing database of freely available information for medical researchers to mine (the medical data are anonymous so that no researcher can link any particular information back to an individual).

Open Government Next: Open Research

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