The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving forward with plans to modernize its electronic health record system based on open-source software, Bloomberg reports.
Open-source software is publicly accessible and can be shared with other organizations.
In its draft request for proposals, VA said it is seeking contractors to build and manage a group of software developers that will oversee an update to the agency's 28-year-old VistA EHR system (Engleman, Bloomberg, 4/1).
The VistA system is used in 153 VA hospitals and more than 800 outpatient clinics in the U.S. (Healthcare IT News, 4/4).
At a Senate hearing last week, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that he had reached an agreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to develop a common EHR system for the two agencies.
Industry and congressional sources expect the common record to be based on VA's modernized open-source platform, according to NextGov.
VA's request for proposals seeks a "custodial agent" that will coordinate interaction between application and code developers and VA throughout the open-source effort (Brewin, NextGov, 4/1). The request states, "In the fully mature ecosystem, any member of the community -- an individual or an organization -- may participate as a developer to improve the codebase and contribute innovations" (Goedert, Health Data Management, 4/4).
Roger Baker -- VA CIO, and assistant secretary for information and technology -- said the agency wants to make sure that "vendors of proprietary products can easily and confidently integrate their products" with VistA (Bloomberg, 4/1).
Shinseki said, "As we work to ensure that we provide veterans with the best in health care, modernization of VistA is absolutely critical" (Nagesh, "Hillicon Valley," The Hill, 4/1).
VA plans to start converting to the new open-source system this summer (Healthcare IT News, 4/4).