A benefit – and side effect – of Internet culture is an embrace toward access and openness. I can access an abundance of free information on the web. I’ve always embraced open source applications, like the one used to create this website, and will continue to do so as long as it’s available.
However, a potential misconception called “Open Medicine” is a side effect of the Internet culture. I do not believe most people who advocate for “Open Medicine” on the web actually understand what “Open Medicine” really means, and all the ramifications and responsibilities that come with the term. When most speak of “Open Medicine” they refer to the idea that medical information should be freely available, transparent, and credible.
I don’t argue with the concept of making healthcare information available, transparent, and credible. After all, I created www.NakedMedicine.com to provide Accessibility, Honesty, and Integrity in healthcare information.
What I oppose is the misconception built around Open Medicine. In my opinion, here is what Open Medicine is NOT:
Open Medicine is not a blogging network, even if the blogging network is composed of a team of doctors, nurses, scientists, other healthcare “experts”, or anyone who has a burning desire to voice an opinion about a particular healthcare trend or drug.
In considering what Open Medicine really is, we only need to look at the basic definition of “Open” as it relates to this Internet phenomenon:
The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing. Source: Open Source Initiative.
In other words, Open Medicine can work only when we are allowing access to what is considered proprietary information or intellectual property, for the expressed purpose to enable collaboration to improve and innovate upon this “open” information. (more…)