Open source is a transparent Trojan horse

I have been blogging and twittering
from the World Health Innovation and Technology conference this week
while waiting to present today. The keynote speaker before me was Scott
McNealy, the Chairman and founder of Sun Microsystems. He has a long
and storied history with Sun, and a well earned reputation as the “human quote machine.”

He delivered.

His talk started with several examples of his health care experience
(long time user as a hockey player and father of four boys) and
business experience had so many corollaries. The fight for standards.
The fight for common interfaces. The fight for privacy and security.
The find for high quality, low cost, and transparency.

McNealy wove all of
these together to hone in on 7 ways that Open Source can help be a
foundational element in solving the health care crisis. He gave a
fascinating overview of how open source is perfect model for health

1. Lowers barriers to entry
2. Increases security
3. Faster procurement
4. Lower cost of ownership
5. Better quality products
6. Open standards
7. Lowers barriers to exit

Cool – I started singing that song in 2002 and still believe it today.

He also went through a list of interesting analogies to drive home his points:

  • “We need a HealthTone” – Everyone is familiar
    with the dialtone and all that it implies for innovations in human
    communications. Well the dialtone is rapidly being replaced by the
    WebTone – the figurative hum of 1’s and 0’s implying ubiquitously
    access to the net. We need something similar within health care – we
    need a HealthTone – a mechanism to allow for true data liquidity
    through all the various applications, services, systems, and
    information to speak with one another. Where is the Health Care
    universal jack?
  • “Nobody ‘owns’ English” – He described the tired
    debates about which language or protocol or architecture was the most
    important. He discussed how ridiculous it would be to try to monetize
    every time you said a word, used it in a publication, or were charged
    for the common communication “platform” of english. Make the
    communication mechanism unique and build a support business around
    it(He did admit to wanting to own at least one vowel).
  • “Left Sided Drivers” – Government has a clear role
    in this. Used the analogy of car drivers all being told to go out in a
    public Darwinian experiment to determine which side of the road is best
    to drive on. The mass confusion that would result is pointless – at the
    end of the day whether you drive on right or left is irrelevant but
    what IS important that it becomes a standard to which everyone agrees
    and it is appropriately enforced. Government should also determine that
  • “Value is built into the DNA of open source. It has to be.”
    Went through the many reasons – including the “switching costs”
    (practically zero in open source) and therefore you need to complete on
    the value that you can provide right away all day everyday. The “RFP”
    is open ended and if you don’t deliver then the user can switch away to
    another support organization. Transparent, real time support contracts.
    Sounds scary, but it puts the vendors proverbial feet right ot the
    fire. Deliver a good experience, build loyalty, and then your customers
    sell for you – that is the open source way.
  • “What does Oracle charge for support? Whatever it takes to win the America’s Cup.”
    Contrast that to this ZINGER aimed squarely at Larry Ellison. I laughed
    out loud when this well practiced line rolled off his tongue. Nothing
    like highlighting the truth with a sarcasm.
  • “A Glass Trojan Horse would not have worked”
    And the winner is . . . transparency. I absolutely loved this quote.
    Think about it – “Security by Obscurity” is akin to the more popular
    “Hope is not a strategy” phrase. When things are done in the open, in a
    peer-reviewed environment, when your reputation is on the line, and
    when your reputation actually affects business, then behaviors start to
    change, quality starts to go up, processes become more efficient, and
    collaborative contributions accelerate transformational change.

Unfortunately, my talk immediately followed Scott’s. We only had
time to exchange business cards but I would have loved to spend some
time with him swapping stories about creating the first ever enterprise open source EHR company and explaining how the EHR is the operating system of the clinic, hospital, and regional health network.

Next time. Giddyup Glass Horse!

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