25 Open Source Software Projects that Are Changing Healthcare

From pandemics to bioterrorism and from imaging to medical records and communication, open source software is changing the face of healthcare. These developments are important to developing countries, especially, during crisis or by improving communication within rural areas. The list below contains a smattering of the hundreds of open-source software programs available to the medical community and to their patients.

Open Source software is licensed under an open source license or in the public domain, and programmers can modify or restructure the software capacity to help these programs become even more efficient. This list of twenty-five open source software projects that are changing healthcare is divided into categories, and each software is listed alphabetically within those categories. This method shows that we do not favor one software over another.

Public Health

  1. Epi Info: This is a public domain statistical software program for epidemiology and that was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is available for Microsoft Windows, and include analytic routines on outbreak investigations that surpasses any paper surveys available today.
  2. epiSPIDER: Learn more about emerging diseases from this experimental map. This map derives its information from news reports and is screened by dbacl, a digramic bayesian classifier, and then passed on to the OpenCalais web service for named entity annotation.
  3. Sispread: Simulation of Infectious Spreading: This software allows users to easily perform epidemic simulations and analyze the results. This project is released under the terms of GNU General Public License.
  4. The RODS Open Source Project: Real-time Outbreak and Disease Surveillance (RODS) is an open source public health surveillance software. RODS Laboratory has been modifying this software since 1999, as it continues to collect and analyze disease surveillance data in real time.
  5. Zyxware Health Monitoring System: Download this software to monitor diseases such as malaria. This is a reporting and analysis module and a GIS module which displays data through Google Maps.

Medical Records

  1. ClearHealth: This software has built credibility for its functionality and ability to replace software designed by vendors. ClearHealth, and open source product, prides itself on customer service as well as software designed specifically for high-volume or low-volume practices.
  2. Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS): This open source software won the ADOC Stockholm Challenge for its ability to help train health workers at low cost at health centers in the Philippines. This software also set standards for the development of more compatibility among software systems to allow for a wider flow of information.
  3. FreeMedForms: This is a multi-platform and multilingual open source project released under the new BSD license. It was developed by medical doctors and is intended for health professionals to test medical health records management.
  4. GNUmed: Professionals who use Unix-like systems can use this medical software package that is secure, respectful of patient privacy and that is flexible, fully-featured and multilingual.
  5. OpenEMR: This software is intended as an open source replacement for medical applications such as Medical Manager, Health Pro and Misys. OpenEMR is a “LAMP” type of web based software application that uses a web server such as Apache, MySQL as the database and PHP as its programming language.


  1. 3D Slicer: Use this multi-platform resource for segmentation, registration and three-dimensional visualization of multi-modal image data, as well as advanced image analysis algorithms for diffusion tensor imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging and image-guided therapy.
  2. CTSim: This is an open source computed tomography simulator that focuses on the process of transmitting X-rays through phantom objects. CTSim has a wide array of image analysis and image processing functions.
  3. DeVIDE: Otherwise known as the Delft Visualization and Image processing Development Environment, this product is cross-platform framework for rapid prototyping, testing and deployment of visualization and image processing algorithms.
  4. Endrov: This open source software provides both a library and an imaging program that can be used for most daily use or prototyping. Based on Java, it is portable and also can be run locally as an applet.
  5. Open Source PACS Framework: Offered by UCLA Medical Imaging Informatics, this product is a free and open source image referral, archiving, routing and viewing system. It goes beyond conventional PACS by integrating wet read functions, implemented through DICOM Presentation State and Structured Reporting standards.

Medical Practice

  1. CARE2X: This open source software integrates data, functions and workflows in any healthcare environment. The components consist of HIS, PM, CDS (Central Data Server) and HXP (Health Xchange Protocol).
  2. Elexis Praxisprogramm: This open source software offers an Eclipse RCP program for all aspects of a medical practice. Look for electronic medical record capacity, laboratory findings, accounting, billing and other capabilities to ease office flow.
  3. Office Manager: This office management software was designed for medical practices, doctors groups, DMEs, retailers and more. Look for user/patient management, point of sale, scheduling, sign-in, inventory, insurance claims management and accounting in a multi-platform environment.
  4. Open Dental: Organize a dental practice with a powerful MySQL database built upon open standards. While this is an open source system, there is a cost for telephone support and training.
  5. TAPAS: Also known as the Technology Assisted Practice Application Suite, this software serves as a model to assist primary care physicians in clinical practice. The software includes the ability to conduct medical summaries, messaging, prescription management and serves a connection to the EGADSS clinical decision support server to provide patient specific preventive reminders.

Mobile Devices

  1. CommCare: This software was designed with community health workers in mind, as it provides a way to supply efficient care in rural areas under better supervision and coordination of community health programs.
  2. EpiHandy: This open source tool revolutionizes the way in which surveys and data collection is done in health and development research. This is a multi-platform program.
  3. Frontline SMS: This mobile open source tool is perfect for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that work in developing countries, as it makes it easier to conduct two-way communication. The software is free, but users pay for messages sent.
  4. Mobilisr: This software was designed to help facilitate communication in health, employment and public safety sectors by enhancing communications for greater efficiency and access to services.
  5. Ushahidi: Ushahidi means “testimony” in Swahili, as this software allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS to email or transmit to Web or visualize information on a map or time line. The goal is to use this device during crisis response.
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