Fred Trotter is closing the gap between the needs of patients and providers to see and share data, and the reality of unlocking it from where vendors have stored it. Driven by a passion for transparent access to data, he's just getting started.
Patients have caregiver champions. They have physician champions. They have nurse champions. They have payer champions. And, I discovered recently, they have at least one hacker champion.
His name is Fred Trotter, and if you're a proprietary software vendor, you don't want to make him angry.
First, forget any automatic association you have between the word hacker and criminal activity. Some hackers break laws. Most do not. As described in Steven Levy's classic book Hackers, computer programmers are a culture unto themselves, and the hacker ethic states: "Access to computers should be unlimited and total." Ironically, we live now in an age where the National Security Agency has made that its mission. As for hackers like Fred, they know that they won't get too many programming jobs if they totally disregard laws.
But the spirit that has fueled Levy's hackers and Fred himself is making the difference between the yearnings of patients and healthcare executives to see their data, and the reality of unlocking it from where it is stored. Right now the data is locked away in countless proprietary file formats by vendors used to exercising control over their customers by being stingy with the data and "protective" of those formats.