HIMSS13: Open Source 'Best Practices' in the Federal Sector

The following are some of notes and observations from one of OHNews bloggers, Marc Wine, on one of the sessions he attended about the VA VistA system, OSEHRA, and some Open Source 'Best Practices' within the Federal government and in the private sector.

He recently attended a number of open source and government sessions at the recent HIMSS 2013 conference in New Orleans that attracted over 30,000 attendees. The following are some of his notes and observations from one of the sessions he attended about the VA VistA system, OSEHRA, and best practices Open Source 'Best Practices' within the Federal government and in the private sector.

  • Several VA officials presented at a session to an open source business audience on OSEHRA and the current VA 'open source' strategy for enhancing the VistA health information system.
  • The VA helped establish OSEHRA which is pursuing an open source strategy to engage the VA, IHS, DoD and other public and private sector entities in the rapid advancement of EHR software modules that will be incorporated in subsequent iterations of its VistA system.  OSEHRA is leading facilitation of VA VistA modernization efforts - reviewing the "As-Is" baseline and the definition of the "To-Be" state.
  • The new VA strategy provides the opportunity for moving additional VA intellectual property into the open source arena.  The strategy supports further development of  JAVA based solutions, enabling open source web services, interfacing COTS products, and helping to spur further innovation.
  • The VA and OSEHRA officials tended to focus on two key topics: 1) the importance of standardization, and 2) commitment to open source for its EHR systems.
  • The "Gold Disk" project consists of a series of 6-month increments or releases. Eight increments will be completed through 2015.  A key aim is to increase transparency and dialogue among partners. An inventory of code sharing is being established.  Internal VA security programs and methods will not be shared.
  • Standardization is key.  VA has great local instances of VistA application code developed by VA field stations that can be shared with OSEHRA.
  • VA program offices are evaluating existing processes for adoption of OSEHRA applications and software code. The process for release of new modules and patches is being addressed.
  • VA is communicating with its physicians to engage them creatively in the open source community efforts.
  • Open development and testing of Blue Button is occurring within OSEHRA.  West Virginia has contributed the HealtheMe PHR software module. 
  • Blue Button is a huge success story. The VA is now using Open Notes in conjunction with Blue Button.
  • OSEHRA will provide intensive documentation.  OSEHRA is going to get better about intellectual property clauses.
  • OSEHRA's submission of the DoD Medics EHR RFI Feb. 27t was announced with 115 volunteers providing support. However, DoD is concerned about using open source VistA for various reasons, e.g. technical support.

Also see the summary of these sessions posted on the OSEHRA web site.