Right now, there are 133 instances of the VA’s popular VistA software operating across the U.S. In an effort to create some harmony, the VA has set plans to create a special separate repository for its Gold Disk version of VistA which developers can use as a baseline.
According to Healthcare IT News, the VA is also planning a software testing platform, open source dev standards and documentation of open source community outreach planning.
The idea behind the VA’s move is to attract more developers and code contributions to VistA, which despite its popularity is getting a bit long in the tooth at more than 30 years old, HIN reports.
VistA is already being renovated by the community managed by the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA), a not-for profit created by a previously standing contract between the agency and The Applications Informatics Group.
The group is working to create a minimum baseline standard for VistA code behind 20 key modules. To do that, OSEHRA’s working with VA’s internal development team to clean up the code and leverage what works.
Meanwhile, OSEHRA is working as a custodial agent is to certify open source code for integration into the VistA code base and to make sure complimentary software contributions will work with VistA.
According to estimates cited by HIN, OSEHRA should cost less than $10 million per year, while replacing VistA with an existing commercial EMR could cost about $16 billion. (Yeah, there’s a no-brainer for you.)
In any event, the big idea behind all of the VA’s VistA efforts is to get things moving quickly and bring on the innovation. It’s hard to argue that this is a good idea. Whether OSEHRA itself is the right vehicle to guide and channel this innovation is anybody’s guess, but if it can harness the explosive creative force that is the open source community, watch out!