ACT-IAC Applauds Announcement as an Example of How Collaboration Can Improve Government

Press Release | ACT-IAC | April 5, 2011

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced plans to move its ground-breaking VistA (Veterans Integrated System Technology Architecture) electronic health record (EHR) system to an open source platform. VistA has been in use for over 30 years and it currently supports 153 major VA hospitals and over 800 community based outpatient clinics. It is considered the most extensively used electronic health record system in the Nation. VA’s decision to move to an open source platform is a game-changing approach to modernizing government legacy systems. The VA decision is the result of an open and collaborative process in which ACT-IAC was actively involved.

In September 2009 the VA’s Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology asked ACT-IAC for input from an industry-wide perspective on how to modernize a system that works well but is increasingly costly and difficult to maintain due to its reliance on outdated software. VA was also seeking a strategy that would encourage innovation in the delivery and management of health care information. In response to this request, ACT-IAC assembled a working group comprised of experienced healthcare and IT professionals from 34 companies in the information technology industry. Over the next six months the working group members contributed thousands of hours – at no cost to the government – to provide answers to VA’s questions. The ACT-IAC report, “VistA Modernization Report: Legacy to Leadership”, was submitted to VA on May 4, 2010. The report is available at

The ACT-IAC report recommended that VA move to an open source, open standards model for the reengineering of the next generation of VistA. It was the sense of the industry that this approach would create an environment within which VA employees, large prime contractors, healthcare professionals, innovative small companies, healthcare software vendors, and entrepreneurs can all contribute to improving “the best care anywhere” being provided by VA today. The ACT-IAC report was significant for two reasons. First, it provided VA with a strategic pathway and actionable plan for modernizing VistA. Second, the industry recommendations to VA were unanimous. Although the working group represented a wide diversity of perspectives within the IT and healthcare communities, its members were able to reach agreement on a strategy that would serve the nation.

Ed Meagher, a former senior government official who served as chair of the IAC VistA Modernization Working Group stated: “ACT-IAC is proud to have served as an objective, ethical and trusted advisor to the VA on the modernization of its VistA healthcare system. Our broadly based committee found open source to be the best environment for the modernization and future development of the next generation of VistA – and it is very gratifying to see that VA is taking ACT-IAC’s recommendations seriously by moving to an open source strategy. This project is an example of how ACT-IAC – and the unique collaborative forum that we offer – can contribute to better government.”

The VA expects to begin conversion to an open source version of VistA by this summer. A key step in this process will be the selection of a custodial agent to perform all aspects of operating the Open Source community.