GNU Health, openSUSE Pioneer Shift in Healthcare Management
The following article has been contributed by Douglas DeMaio, openSUSE PR Expert at SUSE. It was first published on March 13th at https://news.opensuse.org.
You might already have read about it: the openSUSE project recently announced it has donated 10 Raspberry Pis to help expand the use and development of the GNU Health Project, one of many noble open-source projects, on affordable ARM hardware. GNU Health, which is a non-profit, non-government organizations (NGO), delivers free open-source software for health practitioners, health institutions and governments worldwide.
For openSUSE, the project is very important. Richard Brown, chairman of the openSUSE Project, emphasizes: “Running GNU Health on an inexpensive computer like a Raspberry Pi really brings GNU Health’s vision of freedom and equity in health care closer to reality. Think of the possibilities devices like these have to improve healthcare management and patient care using GNU Health.”
Raspberry Pis are full-blown computers with a huge potential for GNU Health and the industry. For example, they can be used in real-time monitoring of vital signs in hospital settings and retrieving information from laboratory instruments for Personal Health Records at research and academic institutions.
“The fact that they come with openSUSE and GNUHealth pre-installed on Raspberry Pi, allows for fast deployment in many different contexts,” explains Luis Falcón, founder of the GNU Health Project, referring to the Raspberry Pi being put to field use. Public Health and Primary Care involve large deployments in different scenarios with trans-disciplinary teams. Having the Raspberry Pi installed with GNU Health in domiciliary units (houses) can record the infrastructure and survey vector-borne diseases like Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika and more.
GNU Health’s free software provides functionality to facilitate a Hospital Information System (HIS), Health Information System and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) management. Family members can update their demographics information and report issues about family functionality to the social services team. The Raspberry nodes can serve as Personal Health Record for the family members and provide a means to interact with their health professionals.
The result is that the health authorities have good demographics and epidemiological data to improve health promotion and disease prevention programs. The Raspberry Pi are independent, autonomous, affordable computers. They have the characteristics to fit the public health system. These properties will allow large scale deployments in the GNU Health Federation, in which each of them will be a unique node of the system.
Each Raspberry box comes with the tools such as SSL, GNU Privacy Guard -GNUPG- and more to maximize the security and privacy of stored and transmitted information.
Ludwig Nussel, the release manager for openSUSE Leap, is convinced that a large amount of credit for GNU Health being in openSUSE is because of Axel Braun, who packaged GNU Health for openSUSE. GNU Health is often used on older computers, and when openSUSE Leap dropped 32-bit x86 support, it made openSUSE less attractive for the project. However, the modern 64-bit platform on an affordable Raspberry Pi 3 changes the digital ecosystem.
Health-care management for well-funded facilities as well as those with funding challenges can benefit from the minimal cost and power consumption of GNU Health on a Raspberry Pi. The Ministry of Health for Jamaica, as an example, has implemented GNU Health as part of its 2014 – 2018 Health Strategic Plan, according to Jamaican government report.
GNU Health enabled computers play a critical importance in low-resource settings, with limited connectivity, which allows the recording of information during a period of days or weeks and then is synchronized and aggregated to the Health Information Systems at the Ministry of Health.
Attendees of the Southern California Linux Expose saw first hand the Raspberry Pi 3s that were donated to the GNU Health Project. And Luis Falcón stated that people onsite loved the Raspberries. Of course, they are an eye-catcher by themselves, but there is much more to it than just cool gadgets. Having Raspberry Pi as a member of the GNU Health team, and counting the continued support from the openSUSE community, the advocates of Freedom, Social Medicine and Public Health have a lot of reasons to celebrate; and have a lot of fun too!
Users of openSUSE can install GNU Health at software.opensuse.org.