Those left-coast types at the California HealthCare Foundation are planning to turn software developed for a Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange into an open-source software product that
other regional health information organizations (RHIOs) could use.

Foundation officials revealed their tentative plan at a Washington,
D.C., forum where people from many organizations discussed the
potential of open-source software for health information exchanges. A
Forrester Research executive said at the forum that the use of
open-source software could result in a 20 percent increase in
nationwide RHIO expansion by 2014.

Given the questionable business model of RHIOs to begin with, an open source software platform could make a real difference - provided it's done right.

In Santa Barbara, the foundation and other organizations spent nearly
$20 million on the software that underlies one of the country’s first
RHIOs. To increase the return on that investment, the foundation might
submit the software to a consortium or other nonprofit that could
license it to other users, said Sam Karp, the foundation’s vice
president of programs. As a result, RHIOs could acquire less expensive
software and easily modify or enhance the system to meet their needs,
forum speakers said.

This sounds great, except it no longer sounds like an open source project, but a "let's package our software for commercial distribution and sell it at a profit" kind of project. There also seems to be confusion about the $20 million in sunk costs to develop their own software and the term "nonprofit." Oh well. Hat tip to FierceHealthIT who has some additional open source info.

If the CHF RHIO story is the "2 steps forward," this next bit of news is "one step back." It seems HIT open source darling Medsphere has lost the faith.

Medsphere claims to be the "leading provider of open source software to the healthcare industry". However, Medsphere has sued the company founders Scott and Steve Shreeve because they released the companies code on SourceForge. The lawsuit states that release of the code came as an unwelcome and startling surprise to Dr. Kizer(the CEO of Medsphere)... and all of the Board members.

This story is reported by Fred Trotter on his GPL Medicine blog. The GPL in the blog name refers to General Public License, a common type of open source license.

Later, an article in ModernHealthCare also indicated that Medsphere
would be proprietarizing VistA. I contacted Medsphere again. This time
I had an email exchange in which MedSphere CTO Steve Shreeve assured me
that Medsphere was going to release code under a FOSS License. Most
importantly Steve cc'ed his response to me to Medsphere CEO Ken Kizer.
In the same exchange, Ken Kizer sent me a note in which he indicted
that he had received Steve's email. You can read this exchange here.

Fred goes on to spell out in a detailed list what's wrong with MedSphere's case against the company's cofounders, and even offer to help.

When I heard about the MedSphere vs. Shreeves lawsuit I contacted Eric
[Eric is one of the God Fathers of the open source movement] to see if together we could approach MedSphere and attempt to
broker a peaceful resolution. Eric agreed and I sent a letter to
MedSphere and other interested parties documenting the problem with Medsphere's behavior.
You can read about the attempts that Eric and Fred have made to make peace with Medsphere.

This situation will be an interesting one to watch.