Sometimes Epic Doesn’t Win: Public Hospital Goes Open Source

Most of the hospitals I write about go with big, expensive commercial EMR packages and suffer through upgrades and code fix schedules imposed by the vendor.  The process seems pretty miserable, and rather inefficient, but IT departments are stuck with it.

That being said, at least some hospitals take advantage of the open source paradigm, including the following midwestern facility.

Oklahoma-based Stilwell Memorial Hospital, a 50-bed public facility, has decided to install Medsphere Systems Corp.’s OpenVista EHR.  The Medsphere product is an open source derivative of the Department of Defense’s widely praised VistA system.  Rather than millions of upfront bucks, Medsphere charges a subscription fee for OpenVista use.

As part of choosing OpenVista, Stilwell Memorial becomes part of Medsphere’s “Healthcare Open Source Ecosystem,” in which various users share code, system upgrades and tips for managing the system.

The question that pops into my head, as I read the background on this install, is why we’re hearing about a 50-bed hospital making this selection, but few if any medium-sized or large community hospitals.

After all, given its history as a massive DoD implementation, I don’t think there’s any question that VistA scales up well. And we are all over the taint open source once had as too casual a community for hard-core enterprise use, right?  By at least a decade?

The truth, however, is that we probably all know the answer. The reason open source EMR installations are still in the minority is that CEOs and board members like the sound of having a giant, sprawling corporate partner better than working with a community.   Meditech, Epic, Cerner and Siemens are more or less automatically shortlisted.

Sigh. Wouldn’t it be nice if hospital C-suite folks and boards were more flexible?  Great things could happen.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Sometimes Epic Doesn’t Win: Public Hospital Goes Open Source
    Anne Zieger
    The autor does present an excellent opinion, why don’t we utilize products already developed. She does however mistate that OpenVista EHR is a DoD product. It is actually a product of the Department of Veteran Affairs, AHLTA is the DoD EMR.

  • As someone who struggled with Vista in a NFP 130 bed hospital I’m not over “the taint” open source once had. Fortunately we only took our lumps for about 18 months before throwing it out.

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