OpenMRS is a flexible, modular, multi-layered system, and one of its strengths is that its platform can be used in many different configurations. As a result, "OpenMRS" can mean many things.
What Is A Distribution?
A particular configuration of the OpenMRS Platform, OpenMRS modules, and (optionally) other integrated applications, that can be installed and upgraded as a unit.
Why Use a Distribution?
There are two ways to start using OpenMRS, depending on your needs and available resources:
- By far the quickest is to start from an existing OpenMRS Distribution, and configure that distribution for your implementation use case. Depending on which distribution you choose, and what your use case is, this may range from configuring metadata through a user interface to writing custom add-on modules.
- The alternative to using an existing distribution is for those projects with a strong development shop, they may choose to build their own custom application(s) on top of the Platform. However, in order to leverage the great work done in the community so far, we recommend exploring the distributions below to see if one is a good fit, and contacting the distribution owners for possible collaborations if customization is needed.
Some of the advantages to using a distribution that already exists are:
- Leverage work that has already been done to address workflows (Hospital Management, etc), regional needs (Kenya, Mozambique, etc), and specialty service areas (TB, etc)
- Collaboration opportunities with other developers and implementers working on similar use cases
- A broader user base of the same distribution can lead to improved code quality, additional features, and shared QA work
Types of Distributions
1. General Purpose Distributions
An OpenMRS distribution that intends to serve the worldwide audience of clinics, hospitals, governments, NGOs, etc, who want a patient medical record for purposes of clinical care.
2. Targeted Distributions
An OpenMRS distribution that is intended for a specific clinical or geographical use case, or a non-patient-care use case. For example, a standardized country specific distribution or one targeted at a specific disease epidemic.
3. Implementation Specific Distributions
A configuration of OpenMRS that is technically built like a Distribution, but is only intended for use by one specific consumer. If you are not the specific target of this distribution, you wouldn't probably use it directly, but as a developer or implementer you may learn a lot from studying or forking it. However, there may be opportunities to collaborate with the teams working on these distributions if you wanted to create a replica of their clinical and technical environments.
OpenMRS Reference Application
Maintained by the OpenMRS community, this distribution demonstrates how the platform's capabilities can be used to build an EMR. You could use this out-of-the-box as a facility EMR, but it (currently) doesn't have the complete EMR feature set.
Maintained by ThoughtWorks and the Bahmni community, Bahmni is an out-of-the-box EMR and Hospital Information System that can be configured without programming.