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Former Red Hat execs aim to open-source health care

What happens when you mix a big problem like the U.S. health care system, Red Hat executives, and an open-source technology approach? The Axial Project.

It was bound to happen. With the U.S. government promising truckloads of cash to overhaul the U.S. health care system, while simultaneously making positive noises around open source, it was just a matter of time before someone connected the dots.

That someone appears to be Joanne Rohde, former executive vice president of worldwide operations at Red Hat, who has launched the Axial Project, a stealth-mode start-up that aims to "combin[e] the principles of Open Standards and Open connect all the parties in the Health ecosystem safely and securely."

It's a big task, but then, that's precisely what open source is good for tackling.

Indeed, as I've written before, the U.S. health care system, with its myriad of providers, insurers, etc. is ripe for open source. Open source isn't a panacea, but it has proved itself adept at resolving precisely this sort of complexity, with Linux and the various Apache projects as just two examples.

I've been talking with Rohde for at least a year now--most recently meeting for breakfast in Raleigh in April--and have enjoyed seeing her ideas germinate and flower. The company has gone through various guises (and names: as late as April, Rohde was calling the company EHRmail), and is now growing to meet the challenges ahead of it.

Axial has been quietly assembling a team of seasoned veterans from Rohde's Red Hat and UBS past, including Michael Yuan and John Casey, but most recently Matt Mattox, Red Hat's director of ISV alliances, who announced via e-mail his move to Axial:

Matt Asay

Axial has not yet raised venture funding, but planned to raise its seed money through alternative avenues, at least as of my April conversation with Rohde. Given the company's mission--to build an integration tool kit around a message broker for health IT companies, universities, and corporations that allows sending and receiving of data across existing infrastructures--coupled with its open-source approach and roster of seasoned executives, I'm guessing funding won't be an issue.

The real issue is whether even open source is powerful enough to fix the U.S. health care system. Good luck to Mattox, Rohde, and the Axial Project team as you seek to answer that question in the affirmative.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.