How open source like OpenMRS response to COVID-19?

covid-19, coronavirus, who, pandemia

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OpenMRS is an open-source medical record system which works in many countries especially in Africa and Asia. The program was used in the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, after the earthquake on Haiti, during a fight with Tuberculosis in Peru and now is used by many clinics in over 60 countries around the world.

Advantages of OpenMRS are for sure easy adaptation to various conditions, working without the Internet, connecting with various programs automatically and intuitive operation even for a nontechnical person.

This program has a huge chance to succeed. In a few years, it could become one of the most popular medical record systems in the world. And moreover is free of costs and continually supporting and developing by the open-source community. 

OpenMRS as a program and community have a big experience in emergency response during outbreaks like the Ebola a few years ago. The organization decided to help also this time. They get involved in the fight with Coronavirus known also as COVID-19. The group of leaders, developers and owners organized themselves and prepare tactics to implement special modules to OpenMRS due to Coronavirus pandemic. 

Ebola&COVID-19 outbreaks

At first glance, COVID-19 is quite similar in treatment to Ebola virus which we know from epidemy in Africa 2014-2016. But the Coronavirus is a more widespread but diffuse illness. It means that Ebola was only in a few places around the world when Coronavirus is literally in the whole world. In every country, in every place and everybody could be infected. When the Ebola was mainly in Africa, Coronavirus is everywhere. Why it didn’t spread as the current virus? Ebola was as dangerous as is COVID-19. But the virus from Africa has a shorter development time and a much higher mortality rate than virus from China. 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 infected person even after death. While Coronavirus spreads around the globe very fast, infecting more and more people.

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

ebola, coronavirus, child

OpenMRS response to Coronavirus

At the end of the March, leaders from OpenMRS had occasion to take part in a digital conference organized by Digital Square. It was called “Global Goods Demo for adapted tools for COVID-19”. Our leaders presented how OpenMRS is adopted to new features connected with COVID-19. The webinar you can watch Here and at Digital Square Wiki where are also slides from the presentation. 

OpenMRS as one of several organizations knows very well how to deal with pandemic and organize work during worldwide epidemy. They are specialists in crisis management. Using knowledge and experience gathered during the Ebola crisis they decided to make less extensive modifications for current implementations. While Ebola resources needed a heavy lift and more significant action. 

OpenMRS developers and implementers formed a COVID-19 Response Squad. They define the scope of OpenMRS’ response, provide technical guidance where needed, and coordinate contributions to shared solutions. Their goal is to provide health-care workers with a tool which help them in screen, test, and manage patients in existing OpenMRS systems, report out patient-level case data, and efficiently make patient-level data available for aggregate use. To achieve this the group decided to develop and realise tools using by WHO, re-use and update existing tools using in OpenMRS and reduces duplication and normalize data through different sources. 

But the truth is that it’s impossible to create one, universal guidance for everybody and every country. So each implementation will issue its own guidelines based on their 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 implementors 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 fight public health services with COVID-19 and in future other emergencies. Both modules will be available in Reference Application and as Add On Modules. Implementers could customize, adapt and release modules in their existing implementations without any bigger changes. 

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 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, implementors can ask the community whenever they have a problem with OpenMRS program and some of the mentors will help them. 

It’s really important to do something for others, protect them and support them in their actions. OpenMRS is a great example of an organization which work for others in the most remote areas around the world. Personally, I appreciate their work and what they do to help people in Africa and Asia. If you’re interested in more details, look at notes from their meetings:

Read our previous posts about Coronavirus response around the world.

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