Open Source Community is Improving Veteran Health Care

Mike O'Neill | Government Executive | November 29, 2012

Nearly all VA health care innovations involve patient health information and the Electronic Health Record (EHR) software that manages it. VA’s EHR, known as VistA, was designed by clinicians for clinicians and is a patient-centric system that embodies the clinical workflow processes that support VA’s models of care. In order to maintain a high rate of innovation in health care, VA must maintain a high rate of innovation with the VistA EHR.

Recognizing that an open source software model has unleashed creativity with technologies such as operating systems and databases and broad platforms such as cloud computing, VA sought to apply this innovation-inducing model to EHR software. VAi2 sponsored an effort to create an open source, community-based approach to the enhancement of VistA and other EHR-related software.This work led to the launch of OSEHRA, an open source custodial agent at the center of a rapidly growing community of developers, clinicians, vendors, universities, and others interested in the use, development, and enhancement of EHRs and Vista in particular.

Launched about a year ago, the OSEHRA community has grown to over 1,500 members representing more than 150 organizations. It has spurred increased collaboration among the existing members of the VistA community and has drawn new interest from both users and developers attracted by the power that the open source model brings to health IT.