DoD Weighs Use of Commercial vs. Open Source EHR Systems

Joseph Conn | Modern Healthcare | May 29, 2013

Will the Defense Department buy a commercial electronic health-record system and consummate one of the largest healthcare information technology deals in U.S. history?

Or will the sprawling, 56-hospital, 361-clinic Military Health System line up with the Veterans Affairs Department and use a modified version of the VA's venerable VistA EHR, an open-source system that has a strong track record in VA facilities?

The answer is that no one, not even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, can say for sure which way Defense will go. EHR vendors, meanwhile, are salivating over the prospect of selling a new EHR system to the Defense Department, which could cost an estimated $6 billion or more.

Hagel and the Defense Department are likely under intense lobbying pressure to buy a commercial system, according to sources contacted for this story, even though the VA adopted plans to improve VistA using an open-source system development model, which VA officials deem to be a cheaper, faster way to improve their health IT system.