VistA open source will 'morph' to VA-DOD joint EHR, VA CIO says ... Government Health IT, Mary Mosquera


Please article and link to article by Mary Mosquera in Government Health IT, on the future of "Open Source" and the VA and DOD EHRs ...

Conrad Clyburn


September 01, 2011 | Mary Mosquera

The joint electronic health record for the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments will in effect be open source when it is complete, according to a senior VA official, who provided more details about how that will occur.

VA is developing an open source track to modernize its VistA electronic health record and will incorporate the approach with DOD in the joint system. DOD has become more excited by open source and “sees it as a strong contributor as we move ahead,” said Roger Baker, VA CIO.

[Q&A: NEJM EHR report authors say 'trust trumps technology' for EHR success.]

The departments will evaluate the modules available through the open source community as a primary method for sourcing their joint and integrated electronic health record (iEHR). 

“As VA moves VistA forward to become the joint EHR system -- I use the word ‘morph’ -- we’re going to do that through the open source. So in effect the iEHR, when we get done, will be in the open source,” he said Aug. 31 in briefing with reporters.

VA has advocated for the collaborative method, believing it will generate innovation from public and private sector sources more quickly. VA will be one of the participants in the open source community, and DOD will also contribute.

VA launched on Aug. 30 its Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA), which will enable the two departments to move toward an open, modular architecture that uses non-proprietary standard open interfaces. A custodial agent is an organization that has experience in establishing and operating an open source community, its processes and resulting products.

“It is huge, just huge for changing the way government thinks about massive, impactful systems and code. I have great optimism that this will lead the way in which government systems get done,” Baker said.

At the OSEHRA site, interested users can register, download code for the modules and give code back. VA has tested, certified and evaluated the modules available through the open source agent. 

In June, VA awarded the Informatics Applications Group Inc. (TIAG), a management and technology services company, a $5 million contract to start operations of the open source community

VA and DOD are also requesting that vendors with proprietary standards move them into the public domain or assure that they are publicly available if they want to be used so that both departments can rely on them to communicate and exchange information.

[Related Q&A: On driving common governance for DoD and VA joint EHR.]

“For those who want us to utilize their standards, make certain that they are fully public domain so that we can use them without having to worry about, in effect creating a sole source situation,” he said.

VA and DOD would be driving these as standards because all of the hospitals will have been using them.

“As you see us move forward on open source and focus on what we want to do with the iEHR, it’s not just a common system between DOD and VA but something based on national standards that every EHR technology vendor can rely on,” Baker said.

In other milestones toward the iEHR, VA recently announced its intent to hire a vendor for an enterprise services bus, which will be the superhighway for all the messaging inside of the record system and “the absolute heart of the EHR because that’s how all the various modules will plug together,” Baker said.


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