Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1.0   About the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHRA)

1.1 What is OSEHRA?

OSEHRA (pronounced “Oh-Sarah”) is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing open source electronic health record software and related health information technology. We support a rapidly growing open source community of users, developers, and researchers with over 850 registered members. Our open, collaborative community represents 160+ industry, academic, and government organizations and we strive to offer the best possible products at the lowest possible costs. OSEHRA is a member of global industry associations including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Health Level 7 (HL7), Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), and the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

1.2  What is the Mission of OSEHRA?

"Build and support an open source community of users, developers, service providers, and researchers engaged in advancing electronic health record software and related health information technology."

1.3  What does OSEHRA do?

OSEHRA facilitates community-based open source software development, market stimulation and education.  It provides a powerful platform and infrastructure repository for software development and distribution. Members of the OSEHRA community openly collaborate on a full range of planning, development, and deployment activities.  In support of the community, OSEHRA offers Open Source Software Quality Certification and testing services to improve the quality and usability of submitted code.

1.4  How does OSEHRA operate?

OSEHRA is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation.  This is a type of non-profit structure often used for professional associations. The members (see 2.0 below) comprise and govern the organization in accordance with the by-laws of the corporation.  OSEHRA is funded by a combination of membership dues and income from open source contract work for  the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). (Note that OSEHRA does not compete for software development contracts; rather it supports the interests of its members).

1.5  How did OSEHRA originate?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established OSEHRA. The VA Office of Information & Technology (OI&T) is responsible for the development and maintenance of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), VA’s electronic health record (EHR). VistA is built from more than 100 discrete applications that together comprise our highly integrated and fully-automated health information system. VistA is the electronic information service that enables clinical care delivery at 152 VA health care facilities and 928 ambulatory care and community-based outpatient clinics worldwide.

By 2010, VA recognized that VistA’s rate of innovation and improvement had slowed substantially, and the codebase was unnecessarily isolated from private sector components, technology, and outcome-improving impact. To address those issues, VA established OSEHRA, the mechanism to open the aperture to broadly-based public and private sector contributions.

VA issued a request for proposal (RFP) on April 22, 2011 to competitively select an organization and management team to establish an open source agent as a non-profit independent entity.  In June 2011, VA selected the proposal submitted by a consortium led by a small business.  A new independent OSEHRA was established as a Delaware registered 501(c)(6) doing business in Arlington, Virginia.  Dr. Seong K. Mun was selected as the founding President and CEO; Lieutenant General (US Army, Retired) James Peake, MD, the 16th Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs, was chosen as the founding Chair of the Board of Directors.

We have expanded since our founding and our community is currently comprised of over 30 Organizational Members and 800 Individual Members. To learn more about our Members please visit https://www.osehra.org/content/organizational-members. To learn more about Membership, please see Section 2.0 below.

1.6  Whom should I contact with questions?

If you have a general question about OSEHRA such as membership, governance, etc, please send an email to info@osehra.org.


2.0  The OSEHRA Community

2.1  Who can become a member of OSEHRA?

OSEHRA serves the larger community of all involved in adopting and improving open source electronic health records. This includes researchers, clinicians, HIT management, academics, patient advocates, and government employees engaged in advancing health IT. OSEHRA welcomes anyone interested in the advancement of open source health information technology. Our community is comprised of both organizations and individuals and is an open, collaborative community of developers, researchers, clinicians, HIT management, academics, patient advocates and government employees engaged in advancing health IT.

2.2  What are the different types of membership?

OSEHRA offers Associate, General, and Organizational Memberships:

Associate Membership is open to individuals who would like the opportunity to grow professionally, foster innovation, and connect with the OSEHRA community. Associate Membership is free to any individual and allows access to website content and participation in OSEHRA discussion groups, working groups, and educational events. Individuals can sign up for Associate Membership on the OSEHRA website.

General Membership is the second tier of membership open to individuals. It shares all the privileges of Associate Membership as well as voting rights in OSEHRA governance, the OSEHRA Member Newsletter, and a discount on the annual OSEHRA Open Source Summit. General Membership dues are currently $500/year. For more information, please see our General Membership Agreement.

Organizational Membership is open to corporations (for profit and nonprofit), government agencies, and other organizations.  OSEHRA Organizational Members can choose from six levels, each of which has an extensive set of benefits.  All members are recognized on the OSEHRA website for their support of the open source EHR community, and they are also promoted in briefings, newsletters, and events such as the OSEHRA Annual Summit. Organizational Members have a voice in the strategic direction of OSEHRA. Each Organizational Member is invited to attend quarterly OSEHRA strategy meetings and to appoint a representative to vote on behalf of the organization at the annual member meeting. For more information please see our Organizational Membership Agreement.

2.3  How much does membership cost?

Associate Membership is free, and does not require dues. The current annual dues for General Membership are $500.  Annual dues for Organizational Membership vary based upon the level of membership chosen.

2.4  What are OSEHRA work groups and do I have to be a member to join one?

OSEHRA groups are divided into discussion groups, working groups, and open source project groups. Discussion groups provide forums for exchanging ideas of common interest, mainly via blog postings. Working groups typically have specific objectives and action items to achieve and conduct scheduled conference calls, many of them weekly, moderated by the group chair. Open source project groups provide tools and forums for members to collaborate on open source software development.

You will need to become a member of OSEHRA, at least at the associate (free) level, in order to participate in OSEHRA groups. Members are able to establish the login credentials required to post within group work areas.

2.5  How does OSEHRA work with the Department of Veterans Affairs?

OSEHRA works with VA in two ways.  First, OSEHRA performs work under our contract with VA which includes the facilitation of VA designated Technical Working Groups, and services to identify, analyze, prioritize and certify open source software candidates for VA intake. Second, OSEHRA fosters an open ecosystem in which many organizations, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, can equally participate. These organizations include, but are not limited to companies, nonprofits, academic institutions, state government agencies and federal government agencies.

2.6  Do I have to be a member to access or submit code?

No.  However, further resources may be available to you as a member and OSEHRA encourages the open source community to collaborate on code. The OSEHRA Technical Journal accepts software submissions from any member of the open source community under the Apache 2.0 software licensing terms.

2.7  How can contributors submit source code to OSEHRA?

OSEHRA has implemented the online OSEHRA Technical Journal (OTJ) that welcomes contributions from all members of the community and makes them freely available to all. All written articles and documentation fall under the Creative Commons by Attributions License. As a technical journal, it is expected that most articles will include source code, testing code and use case examples to enable readers to get firsthand experience with the software. Please contact us at info@osehra.org for more information on how to make a contribution.

2.8  How are OSEHRA Technical Journal contributions tested and reviewed?

Once articles are submitted to the Journal, they are subject to open and public peer review by members of the community.  Peer review is facilitated by the fact that all articles are required to be reproducible, and therefore include all the materials needed to enable a reader to run the software.

OSEHRA members can participate in the review. As an open source community facilitator, OSEHRA encourages those with ideas or code to actively participate by submitting or by helping with the evaluation and improvement of submissions from other members of our community.

2.9  How do I contribute code to the OSEHRA Gerrit system?

Users can directly create an account, and start submitting patches and bug fixes, as well as participate in the code review process to improve code that others have contributed.  See Gerrit Code Review System for an in-depth discussion and detailed instructions.

2.10 How does OSEHRA route the code contributions from the open source community to the Department of Veterans Affairs?

OSEHRA has been designated as an “onramp” for bug fixes, and new code contributions. We have established workflows by which contributions and improvements from the larger open source community can be tested and certified, and then can be included in the code base.

OSEHRA’s VA contract, Open Source Technical Support and Working Group Services for VA VistA, helps “tee up” candidates for intake into VA through analysis and certification. Community members can suggest a product, see the most recent Capabilities Based Results documentation, or review the current candidate list

2.11 Where can I find VHA unfulfilled software requirements?

The OSEHRA website has been designated as the dissemination point for these requirements. The requirements are keyword searchable and can be accessed here. There is also a VHA Requirements Information Page that provides some additional information as well as an email address for feedback.