Wisconsin reps trying to torpedo VA's open source strategy

For those of you folks who think that open health is a staid field, this week saw the unfolding of an epic scandal. NexGov's inimitable reporter, Bob Brewin, author of the column What's Brewin, got his hands on a stash of documents showing that elected representatives from Wisconsin are trying to torpedo the open source strategy being pursued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Kudos to VA's CIO, Roger Baker, for standing up for what's right.

In his article, titled “Wisconsin reps try to derail VA/Defense open source health records system” Brewin reports that five members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation sent a letter to the VA and DoD respectfully requesting the VA dump VistA and instead consider using a single commercial system for their new electronic health records. A beneficiary of the actions of these Wisconsin pols could potentially be Epic, one of Wisconsin's largest corporations and a major player in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) market. If there were an attempt to replace VistA with Epic, it would cause severe disruptions to the VA's ability to care for America's veterans. This is discussed by Peter Groen in his blog, as well as in Tom Munnecke blog here. Disruptions, and even potential failure, notwithstanding, such as development could be a fabulous financial windfall for Epic.

Brewin, no fool and an old hand at exposing how elected officials fleece the American people on behalf of multinational corporations, did some additional footwork. He called an Epic representative who replied that “the company does not use lobbyists.” That may be the case but in a follow up article titled “Following the Epic Systems Money” Brewin reports that Epic and Epic's CEO, Judith Faulkner, have contributed over a million dollars to congressional candidates and political action committees. Recipients of this financial largesse include some of the very congressmen trying to kill VistA and the VA's open source strategy.

Luckily VA's CIO, Roger Baker refused to be cowed by the Wisconsin reps and quickly replied to their letter. After explaining to the Wisconsin reps that the “VA has a long and very successful history in developing and using EHR systems,” he added that “we have been a leader in the creation and adoption of these systems nationwide,” and as a result “VistA itself has won many awards.” Baker told the congressmen, Senators Herb Kohl (D) and Ron Johnson (R), and Representative Paul Ryan (R), Ron Kind (D) and Tammy Baldwin (D), whose district includes Verona, where Epic has its headquarters, that  the VA plans to stick with the open source approach it has pursued so successfully in partnership with other public and private sector organizations over the past few decades.

It is good to see that there are government officials that are willing to stand up for what is right.

Roger A. Maduro, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief