NY State Office of Mental Health to Implement DSS vxVistA System

The rumors circulating at the OSEHRA Summit last week have now been confirmed. It has been officially announced here that the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) will be implementing Document Storage Systems (DSS) vxVistA electronic health record (EHR) system in 23 hospitals and 300 clinics across the state. The prime contractor for this enterprise-wide contract is CGI Group Inc.

OMH is one of the largest healthcare delivery organizations in the United States. It has hundreds of facilities across the State of New York. The system, based on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) award-winning VistA EHR system, will give OMH a stable, flexible platform to leverage technology to improve patient care and safety. The system will allow better data collection and improve clinical decision support. It will also increase efficiency by streamlining documentation, eliminating redundant documentation, improving information flow between OMH locations, and facilitating collaboration between health and human services programs at the state and local levels.

John Tauriello, Esq., Acting Commissioner, New York State Office of Mental Health, emphasizes "this EMR platform will allow us the ability to better manage change and improve patient care while also lowering costs."

As one of the nation’s largest providers of mental health, OMH has developed comprehensive plans to bring about transformative changes to achieve recovery for those living with mental illness. After extensive research, OMH chose the DSS version of VistA, vxVistA as the core of the solution OMH will use in realizing its goals. “We look forward to the OMH’s success as they leverage our VistA-based EHR expertise to achieve their goals,” said Mark Byers, CEO and President of DSS.

During the first phase of this project, vxVistA will be installed and utilized by a number of OMH hospital facilities. This initial phase will allow OMH to decide how to modify vxVistA to produce their own version of VistA, to be called “Empire State VistA,” that will be customized to their needs. This version will then be implemented at all remaining OMH hospitals and outpatient clinic facilities.

The ability to create Empire State VistA is is one of the greatest advantages of using open source EHR software. The customer is in charge and they can configure, modify, extend and enhance the software so that it works just the way their users want it to work. Had OMH chosen a proprietary EHR solution, the vendors would have been in control and OMH would have been forced to use what the vendors had at whatever price they asked for.

Another major advantage is cost. Empire State VistA is going to be implemented for a small fraction of the cost of most proprietary EHR solution. The contract is valued at $48.7 million over four years with two additional option years. Had OMH chosen a proprietary vendor they would have been looking at billions of dollars in implementation costs.

In addition to the core vxVistA, OMH plans to leverage several additional vxVistA integrated solutions that are specific to behavioral health. These include DSS' Mental Health Suite (vxMHS). This module helps optimize patient care by guiding practitioners across disciplines in treatment, planning and intake documentation specific to mental health care. DSS, which over the years has developed an entire suite of enhancements to VistA, will also provide the following additional software modules to further enhance the OMH’s efforts:

  • vxComputerized Patient Record System
  • vxBar Code Medication Administration
  • vxGroup Notes
  • vxDocument Manager
  • vxClinical Note Templates and;
  • vxRelease of Information

In addition to picking vxVistA as the core EHR, OMH has made a wise decision in picking DSS as the VistA implementer. Although DSS is not well known in the Health IT field when compared to proprietary vendors with huge marketing budgets and gigantic exhibits at HIMSS confernces, DSS is in fact a powerhouse when it comes to VistA. DSS has more than 20 years of experience working with federal, private and public healthcare facilities. DSS has developed more than 40 add ons, enhancements and extensions to the core VistA system run by the VA, and it has also developed an integration engine that has allowed them to adapt more than 100 enhancements to VistA developed by commercial vendors. 

DSS is also a very active member of the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA) organization as well as several other non-profit organizations. DSS embraced open source in 2009 and it has contributed vxVistA to OSEHRA under the open source Apache 2.0 license. DSS vxVistA, takes the most reliable and widely used open source EHR in the country to a new level to meet the needs of hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and physician practices.

The announcement comes in the heels of an extraordinarily successful VistA conference hosted by OSEHRA in Bethesda, MD. The conference brought nearly 500 participants together to an intense three days of presentations, workshops and discussions. Stephen Warren, Acting Chief Information Officer (CIO), used his presentation at the conference to announce the launching a series of initiatives at the VA to fully embrace and leverage the VA's open source strategy across the entire agency. These initiatives include fully embracing OSEHRA as the open source code repository, developing intake mechanisms so the VA can bring VistA enhancements from the private sector into the VA, following recommendations made by the iEHR team to standardize all core VistA modules so that the Department of Defense (DoD) can seamlessly and inexpensively transition their version of VistA, called CHCS, to the latest version of VistA, migrating all servers to Linux, and stardarizing all software development on open source tools.

When the New York State OMH project is completed, that will bring the number of hospitals and clinics running some variant of the open source VistA system to well over 2000 facilties across the U.S. and around the world. See VistA Installations map.

This article was updated by Roger Maduro on September 19th.