Holding VistA's age against it

In computing it is common to disparage old code. Old code runs on old machines. Old code is obsolete. Old code must be replaced. This common canard is being pushed by hospital IT vendors in order to dismiss, destroy, and replace the VA's VistA system.

From the Constitutional Peasant sketch, Monty Python and the Holy GrailI'm 37. I'm not old.

In computing it is common to disparage old code. Old code runs on old machines. Old code is obsolete. Old code must be replaced.

This common canard is being pushed by hospital IT vendors in order to dismiss, disparage, and replace the VA's VistA system. Every time you talk to a VistA opponent "old" is the adjective that is the first to emerge.

Well, VistA is not as old as John McCain. It's not as old as Michael Palin. Or even that movie referenced above.

True, the original coding was done in the 1970s -- that's ancient in Internet years -- but do we get rid of e-mail because that's an old application?

It burns up VistA advocates like Fred Trotter  when this "VistA is old" spin is accepted by reporters without a second thought, as in a recent profile of Medsphere's Midland Hospital installation.

Writes Fred:

This happens all the time. People hear that VistA has been in use since the 70’s and they cannot let go of how “old” it is. Hate to break it to you, but almost every core technology that you use on a daily basis has its roots in the 70’s.

VistA is constantly updated, Trotter adds. True, it has weaknesses, notably in billing and integration with insurance systems, something the VA as a single-payer system does not worry about.

But it is a lot easier to build those interfaces than to rip-and-replace something that works. And it is much better to base universal, transparent standards on open source code first published decades ago than on something brand new.

Also, VistA is not dead, not even in its commercial incarnation. Medsphere, which installed Midland's software, has just signed  a $9.7 million contract  to install VistA at the Indian Health Service. (Our Indians, not India's.)

Add this to the growing international support and open source communities built around VistA, and the proper word for it is mature.