High Level Introduction
The LibreHealth community would like to acknowledge Jinu Jacob, Sara Armson, Elyse Voegeli, Michael Downey, Steven Githens, Oliver Jones, Saptarshi Purkayastha, Ben Wolfe, Edward Kaladze and Burke Mamlin who have been instrumental in developing the previous versions of this documentation.
LibreHealth is both a software and a community. As a software it serves as an Electronic Medical Record(EMR) system originally designed for developing countries. Through its open source community it has grown into a medical informatics platform used on every continent. This page will provide an introduction to the LibreHealth software: our electronic medical record and the platform supporting it. If you are interested in learning more about the LibreHealth community, wesuggest you throroughly go through this documentation.
Millions of people are infected with different diseases everyday of the year. These diseases include HIV/AIDS, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and malaria. In developing countries, lack of education and resources raises the number of preventable deaths. To handle the needs of treatment, an efficient Management Information System (MIS) is needed but many developing countries still use paper records. LibreHealth was created as a response to these challenges in developing countries.
We designed LibreHealth to be a generic medical record system that can support the care of patients, gathering observations, encounters, notes, and other data from the healthcare system and rendering those in summaries, reports, and data views that would improve the effectiveness of the people using the system.
What is LibreHealth?
LibreHealth is a Java-based, web-based electronic medical record. We started from a simple (at least it used to be simple) data model, wrapped that into an API, and then built a web-based application that uses the API. The LibreHealth API works like a "black box," hiding the complexities of the data model beneath it and ensuring that applications and modules using the API work with a similar set of business rules for managing the EMR data. See our technical overview page for more details.
At the heart of LibreHealth is a concept dictionary. This dictionary, much like a typical dictionary, defines all of the unique concepts (both questions and answers) used throughout the system. Using combinations of questions and answers, we can define observations (observable data) as well as forms that gather multiple observations within a single encounter. Our first systems were built by taking very carefully considered paper forms and turning them into electronic forms by cataloging all of the concepts on the forms (questions and answers) and then organizing these into an electronic schema (hierarchy) that represented all the data on the paper forms. By doing this, we could easily capture all of the data from the paper forms into the computer system as discrete, coded data that the computer could understand and then begin using those data to improve patient care. Over time, we are seeing more cases where data are being directly entered into the system through web-based forms or mobile solutions.
LibreHealth has grown from few organizations to a massive collaborative effort. It has always been based on the principles of openness and sharing ideas, software and strategies for deployment and use. LibreHealth is now in use in clinics in Argentina, Botswana, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, United States, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, and many other places. It is supported by individuals, organizations, government aid groups, NGOs, and for-profit and non-profit corporations. More importantly, consider rolling up your sleeves and help us improve. Join a mailing list or hop into IRC or discover our Q&A site and share your questions/concerns. If you're a developer, check out our New Developers' Guide in the coming chapters. If you are interested in implementing LibreHealth, check out our Implementors' Guide and How to get support. We're all in this together!