Public-Private Partnerships in Healthcare: The Road to Open Source

This original article originally appeared on the LF Public Health Project Blog.

The last three years have redefined the practice and management of public health globally. What will we need to support innovation in the next three years?

In May 2022, ASTHO (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials) hosted a prospective panel at its TechXPO on innovation in public health, with a particular focus on public-private partnerships. Jim St. Clair, executive director of the Linux Foundation Public Health, spoke alongside representatives from MITRE, Amazon Web Services, and the Washington State Department of Health.


Three concepts emerged and reappeared in the discussion panel: rethink associations; sustainability and governance; and design for the future of public health. In this blog post, we dive into each of these critical concepts and what they mean for open source communities.

rethink partnerships

The TechXPO panel opened with a discussion on partnerships for public health data modernization, a trending topic at the TechXPO conference. Dr. Anderson (MITRE) noted that current public health projects require “not just a ‘public-private’ partnership, but a ‘public-private-community partnership.’ As vaccine deployments, digital apps, and environmental health interventions continue to roll out at scale, the need for community engagement in public health will only increase.

However, community partnerships should not be seen as just another “check box” in public health. Rather, partnerships with communities are a transformative way to gain feedback while improving the usability and effectiveness of public health interventions. As an example, Dr. Anderson cited the success of the VCI (Vaccination Credentials Initiative), saying, “When states started partnering to provide data…and offered the opportunity for people to provide feedback… the more you looked at the data, the more accurate it was.” the data.”

Cardéa, an LFPH project focused on digital identity, has also benefited from public-private-community partnerships. In the last two years, Cardea has organized three community hackathons to test interoperability between other tools using the Cardea codebase. Trevor Butterworth, VP of Cardea’s parent company, Indicio, explained his thoughts on community engagement in open source: “The more people use an open source solution, the better the solution becomes through stress testing and innovation.” the better it gets, the more it will evolve because more people will want to use it Cardea’s partnerships with the public and private sectors also include Indicio, SITA and the Aruba Department of Health, demonstrating the potential for diverse stakeholders to come together around public health goals.

Community groups are also in a unique position to drive innovation in public health: they are often sensitive to pressing issues that might otherwise go unnoticed by institutional stakeholders. A prominent example is the Exceptional Care Institute (IEC), an LFPH member organization focused on serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “founded by health professionals, many of whom are motivated by personal experience with a relative disabled”. The IEC recently presented a webinar on discovering intellectual and developmental disabilities in healthcare data: the webinar and Q&A showcased the on-the-ground knowledge of this deeply engaged and solution-focused community.

Sustainability and Governance

Sustainability is at the heart of any viable open source project and must start with a comprehensive, consensus-based strategy. As James Daniel (AWS) mentioned on the TechXPO panel, determining “exactly what a public health department wants to achieve, [and] what are your goals” before developing a solution. Defining these needs and goals is also essential for long-term sustainability and governance, as Dr. Umair Shah (WADOH) mentioned: “You don’t want a scenario where you start something and stutter, stop and go. argue that it is better not to have started it in the first place.

Questions about sustainability and project direction can often be answered by bringing public and private interests to the same table before the project begins. Together, these interests can determine how a potential open source solution might be developed and used. As Jim St. Clair mentioned on the panel: “Determining where there are common interests and shared values ​​is something that the private sector can help negotiate. Even if a solution is ultimately not adopted, or if a partnership never forms, a frank discussion of concerns and ideas between public and private sector stakeholders can help clarify the capacities and long-term interests of all stakeholders. involved.

In addition, transparent discussion of public health priorities, issues, and ideas among state governments, private companies, and nonprofit organizations can help drive innovation and improvements, even when there is no specific project at hand. hand. To this end, the LFPH organizes a public Soft Channel, as well as weekly meetings of the Technical Advisory Council (TAC) in which we organize new ideas and project presentations. TAC discussions included concepts of event-driven architecture for health data, a public health data sharing grid, and “digital twins” for computing and research.

Designing for the future of public health

Best partnerships, sustainability, and governance offer exciting prospects for what can be achieved in open source public health projects in the years to come. As Jim St. Clair (LFPH) mentioned on the TechXPO panel: “How do we take advantage of these partnerships to ask ‘What else is there about disease research technology that we could consider? What other diseases, what other challenges have diseases always had? public health authorities? These challenges will not be solved with closed source solutions; rather, the success of interoperable open source accreditation and exposure notification systems during the pandemic has shown that open source has the upper hand during the creation of scalable, efficient and international solutions.

Jim St. Clair is not only optimistic for new challenges, but also for established challenges that remain pressing: “Now that we’ve had a crisis that has enabled these capabilities around contact tracing and notifications… [they] it could be harnessed to expand and improve all these other traditional areas that are still a burning public health concern. For example, consider a longstanding challenge in the US health care industry: “Where do I start…to help reduce costs and improve performance and efficiency with Medicaid delivery? … What new strategies could we apply in population health that begin to address cost-effective, patient-centered care delivery models? »

Large-scale public health and healthcare challenges, such as mental health, communicable diseases, diabetes, and even Medicaid reform, will only be achieved by systematically bringing all stakeholders around the table, determining how to support projects sustainably and providing transparent value to patients. communities and public sector organizations. LFPH has pursued a shared vision on using open source to improve our communities, pursuing the same determination as the various groups that originally came together to create COVID-19 solutions. The path of open source in public health has just begun.

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