Study: VistA Is Doctors’ Favorite EMR, Beating Epic

Despite more than a decade to work things out, discussions about open source vs. commercial enterprise software always seem to devolve into “religious wars” over the inherent goodness of one business model over the other.  EMR software seems to be no exception to this rule, a state of affairs which has done little to advance the industry as a whole.

Well, maybe the following will help move the discussion into more positive channels.  According to a new survey by Medscape, physicians prefer VistA over Epic, as well as Cerner, Meditech and McKesson, on characteristics which included ease of learning, reliability, value for the money, physician overall satisfaction and staff overall satisfaction.

According to the study, VistA came in at 3.89 out of 5 (five being “like most”), while Epic followed at 3.51, Cerner at 3.15, Meditech at 2.94 and McKesson at 2.91. (The pack was actually led by Amazing Charts (4.22) and Practice Fusion (4.04), both systems aimed at physician practices directly.)

Lest this seem like a flash in the pan, consider the results of a similar study done by the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2011. The AAFP, which asked physicians to compare 30 EMRs on 15 criteria. Of enterprise EMRs included in the study, Epic and VistA were neck at 5th and 6th, with McKesson 19th and Cerner 25th in line.

Now, in all fairness, it should be noted that the author of the blog item I mined for this piece is Edmund Billing, MD, CMO and EVP of Medsphere, whose product is OpenVista. But the stats outlined by Dr. Billing are worth considering nonetheless.

Perhaps we’re not ready for the religious wars to end, but throwing some relevant stats into the conversation couldn’t possibly hurt.  After all, there’s never a bad time to take physician perceptions seriously.

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.


  • I got to try out VistA during ONC HealthIT training; for someone not used to EHR navigation, it was amazingly easy to use, despite not being flashy. To me, that says a lot.

  • Thanks for your article Ann. I’ve documented and trained the “big boy” EMRs as well as VistaA and found VistaA much more user friendly and easier to master. VistA isn’t as “pretty” and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Epic or Cerner, but it gets the job done.

    Here is a comparison: It took over 460 eLearning modules to train all the modules of Cerner to docs and staff of a 20 hospital system, but took 64 eLearning modules to thoroughly train a local hospital staff on VistA. To document and train Cerner was obviously MUCH HIGHER than accomplishing the same goals with VistA.

    All and all, docs and everyone were pleased to learn how to integrate VistA with their workflows as it’s a less complicated system that cost less to purchase, customize, train and master.

    One must consider that most physicians are not hospital employees so many hospitals pay the docs to take the training – – because the docs are losing revenue when they are taking training. Attendance was higher with VistA training and the participants were up to speed in no time. Additionally, it takes less on-sight, follow-up by coaches and superusers with VistA, as well.

    VistA isn’t perfect, but it certainly has its good points that should be considered when buying an EMR.

  • Having been a VA patient for 30 years and traveled all over the country, I’ve been grateful for VistA. I forget some meds? No problem. I need emergency care? All my records (including prescription list) are there.
    My primary care doc gives me my lab history whenever I see her, so I can see how I’m trending.

  • Imagine if you will, all the functionality, and ease of use inherent in VistA with a GUI front end, and deployed in a SaaS model. That’s what iCare has to offer. Along with mobile device access without any additional licensing fees for this feature. Pretty forward thinking stuff.

Click here to post a comment