Saturday, December 3, 2016

Is the open source nature of OSCAR dying?

A recent letter has been circulating:

And I quote the letter here:

I am concerned about the future of Oscar. There are a few recent issues which everyone who cares about Oscar should be aware of...
1) Back in April 2016, Oscar-EMR was 'reorganized', but apart from the people at Oscar EMR and the new people who have taken over, no news has been released.
I was told that a news release would be coming soon, but it has now been over 2 months with nothing.

For better or worse, Oscar EMR was made into an important piece of the community and their decisions affects all of us. Now that radical changes are happening, the community is being completely ignored.
2) MyOscar development has been directed into a new MyOscar3, which is now called Kindred PHR and is a complete re-architecture of MyOscar.
At the last FMF meeting, I was told that the new pricing structure was $10 per month per physician and free for patients and administrators.
Now, after migrating a client from MyOscar2 to Kindred, we find out that the rates are $50 per FTE per month. Reading the fine print, it also says that membership is for "a trial period" with no indication of what it may cost in the the future.
At this point, the original myoscar code is available but not being developed and the KindredPHR code is not available at all.  So much for Open Source.
3) The Annual BC User Group meeting has been cancelled, as well as our presence at the upcoming FMF. I understand that these meetings take time and planning, but there should be enough people in the community to help organize these events.
4) I saved the best for last. The McMaster Legal Department has asked some OSPs to cease using the 'Oscar' name unless they become members of 'Oscar EMR'.
How much? No prices are listed publicly and the only known members are the larger Oscar EMR 'Charter OSPs'.

My take:
Essentially, Oscar EMR has been taken over by a group of OSPs who are now preventing other OSPs from using the word 'Oscar'.
Before making any more assumptions, I think the community should be made aware of the changes and key decisions being made without their knowledge.
The entire reason why Oscar was made as an Open Source project was to prevent it from being hijacked by anyone or any group.
Now, Oscar EMR, with the help of McMaster, are taking control of the Oscar name and threatening legal action and fines if a non-approved member uses the word 'Oscar'...
Where is OCUS? Why is there no public response to these radical changes?


END QUOTE (of the letter)

My take:

It all depends upon how you define "open source".

I have little doubt that there are highly tech-savvy OSCAR users out there that will defend to the death that OSCAR remains open source.

But I'm just a Physician user who wants a rock solid EMR that won't go out of business and which won't hold me hostage for "upgrades or else....", etc.

OSCAR pretty much delivers on what I want out of an EMR, but quite frankly - development of OSCAR appears to have progressed towards numerous iterations of OSCAR across the country.  My own installation is an odd mix of BC's OSCAR and Ontario's OSCAR.....with an Alberta Billing/Lab module strapped on for good measure (it is the best in the business, so I'm happy with it).

While OSCAR is working well for me for now - I am painfully aware that it is not evolving from the perspective of an unsophisticated user.

Sure, OSCAR development has "released" new versions of OSCAR (I think that they are at version 16 now) - but few users are installing it because the "debugging" process is still suffering from an undisciplined and informal approach that leaves new versions of OSCAR potentially risky for a mission critical office tool.

I am already at a point with OSCAR that lots of its functionality is just not working on my installation.    Simply being able to enter immunizations for HepA/HepB or Gardasil, for example, are just not possible (you have to enter them as "custom" vaccinations), and this has not improved since 2009.   I could go on....

One would have thought that things like this would have been improved within 7 years, but that does not seem to be the case.  Perhaps these items are improved in the latest version of OSCAR - but it is insufficiently tested to the point that it is not worth the risk of installing it  - at least to me.  For now.

Having said this, I am aware that some installations of OSCAR in BC and OSCAR in Ontario appear to have fixed the parts of OSCAR that they don't like.  There are therefore at least TWO forks of OSCAR that I am aware of.

My OSCAR installation is potentially third fork!

Hopefully, the concerns I have addressed above will eventually be addressed - but I'm not holding my breath.  I am therefore going to consider looking at alternatives.  It kills, me - but I can't afford not to.....

I shall report back -  I don't think that any better solutions exist......most other EMR's in Canada really suck compared to OSCAR.....but stay tuned!  And wish me luck!