VistA to be saved as open source

The report is filled with praise not just for open source software but the open source process.

A working group representing both government and contractor interests has recommended that VistA, the Veteran Administration's aging Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, be rewritten, but that the effort be done under open source licence and the result be backward-compatible with the current VistA.

Thw 101 page VistA Modernization Report has been posted to the site of the American Council for Technology.

VistA, first written in the 1980s using a technology called MUMPS, has been under fire for years. It is said to be obsolete, although it's probably the most-used Electronic Health Record (EHR) program in the world.

It has been assumed for years VistA would be replaced, but the question is how and by what. The new report shows a 180 degree turnaround in attitudes on the how and what.

The report is filled with praise not just for open source software but the open source process. Here is what I consider the "nut graph," from page 88 of the report:

The open source market and open solutions strategy are are growing modestly and can be stimulated to grow rapidly across different markets.

This is a sea change in attitudes from a few years ago, when the previous Administration was starving VistA of resources and handed its lab work to Cerner under contract. Now open source is "obviously" the way to go and private companies involved in contracting for the government agree. Oh, and backward compatibility is essential.

With this kind of consensus it seems momentum for an open source VistA replacement seems well underway. The key question now is how many people will be hired, full-time, to build the VistA 2.0 community, how transparent that process will be, and how much of the work will still be done by contractors.

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