Open Sources Fighting COVID-19: OpenMRS’ Response to the Pandemic

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Open sources’ main purpose is to serve people. These are the communities built by thinkers and seekers of better solutions who want to shape the future. When world crises happen, open sources are on duty, alert and ready to help. COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Once it broke out, open sources gathered together to create solutions that would help people affected by the virus. Watch open sources fighting COVID-19 and doing what they can to help people affected by the pandemic.

One of such organizations is OpenMRS, our long-time partner. It’s an EMR software used in health facilities, mostly in developing countries. In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, OpenMRS developers used the experience gained in previous crisis situations, such as the Ebola outbreak a few years ago. It allowed them to act quickly and effectively, utilizing already possessed skills and knowledge in the field of emergency response.

How is Ebola similar to COVID-19?

At first glance, COVID-19 is quite similar in treatment to Ebola virus which we know from the epidemic in Africa in 2014-2016. The difference is, the Coronavirus is a more widespread, but diffuse illness. It means that Ebola outbreaks took place only in a few places around the world while Coronavirus spreads globally.

Why didn’t Ebola spread like the current virus does? Ebola is just as dangerous as COVID-19 is. However, it has a shorter development time and a much higher mortality rate than the Coronavirus. Ebola’s mortality with success limited spread of the disease on the continent. Which doesn’t mean that people couldn’t get an infection after contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person even after their death. Coronavirus spreads around the globe very fast, infecting more and more people.

On the 6th of March there were more than 1.3 million people infected, and that’s not the end. The real number of infected people is even higher. Many people don’t know about their illness, because they don’t have typical symptoms.

OpenMRS’ response to COVID-19

Open Sources Fighting COVID-19

OpenMRS as a program and community have a big experience in emergency response. The organization decided to use this experience and engage in the fight with COVID-19. The group of leaders, developers and owners prepared tactics to implement special OpenMRS modules that would help in managing COVID-19 patients’ data. These solutions were presented during an online conference organized by Digital Square – “Global Goods Demo for adapted tools for COVID-19”.

You can find detailed information about the conference on Digital Square Wiki.

OpenMRS developers and implementers formed a COVID-19 Response Squad. Its main purpose is to define the scope of OpenMRS’ response, provide technical guidance where needed, and coordinate contributions to shared solutions. The team’s goal is to provide health-care workers with a tool which helps them screen, test, and manage patients in existing OpenMRS systems, report patient-level case data, and efficiently make patient-level data available for aggregate use. To achieve this the team decided to re-use and update existing OpenMRS tools, reduce duplication, and normalize data through different sources. 

However, it is impossible to create one universal guidance for every health facility and every country. So each implementation will issue its own guidelines based on the context. Because of that OpenMRS’ COVID-19 tools have to be flexible and easy to adapt to manage updates to guidelines. All countries and OpenMRS implementers can customize these tools to their own preferences.

OpenMRS COVID-19 response tools under development

OpenMRS Response Squad has a goal to release two different modules. They will launch with features to support fighting public health services with COVID-19 and, in the future, other emergencies. Both modules will be available in Reference Application and as Add On Modules.

The first module is COVID-19 Public Health Response Module which includes Patient Intake, Registration and Case Management. 

The second module is called COVID-19 Public Health Reporting Module. Its goal is to support health facilities with statistics and expert tools for clinical analysis. 

The community approach will enable us to tap into existing OpenMRS modules and projects currently underway. Both within the community and from specific implementations. This new resource offers clinical case reports, a summary with alerts, weekly/monthly reports, supply forecasting, system monitoring tool (EHR) and system interfaces (DHIS2, CommCare, Laboratory, SORMAS). 

To make sure that every implementation has the infrastructure and resources to launch modules, Squad leaders will mentor and instruct them. Of course, implementers can ask the community whenever they have a problem with the OpenMRS program and some of the mentors will help them. 

As an open source medical software provider, OpenMRS does a great job and contributes needed solutions in the time of global crisis. We appreciate and support their work, aiming to build a safer future together.

If you’re interested in more details, look at notes from OpenMRS meetings:

2020-03-25 COVID-19 Response
2020-04-08 COVID-19 Response

More about COVID-19

Pandemic Situation: Non-Profit Organizations’ Response
COVID-19 Data Collection: How Can Data Help People?

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