Robert Kolodner, who was the National Coordinator for Health IT at the end of the Bush Administration, has decided to forego the big consulting bucks and join Open Health Tools as its Chief Health Information Officer.
It's a big step forward for OHT, which was formed in 2007 as an "Eclipse for health IT" under Eclipse co-founder Skip McGaughey, who had moved to Asheville, North Carolina after retiring from IBM.
It's also a big deal for open source health IT generally. It comes just as the Veterans Administration is becoming a big booster of its own VistA software, seeking industry help in making it a standard electronic health record (EHR).
Kolodner is now in a position to provide that help.
The current VistA implementation is very weak in the area of payments, since the VA is a single payer system, but commercial projects like Medsphere and ClearHealth, as well as open source groups like WorldVista have been working to correct that deficiency.
A complete open source EHR solution would not only help the $19.2 billion HITECH stimulus go further, but could also lead to standardization and faster implementation of Health Information Exchanges.
Another important data point for open source health IT was the January release of DSS' vxVista under the Eclipse license, in association with OHT. Presumably Kolodner will be working with that package.
Critics have charged that the VA software is based on MUMPS technology from the 1960s, but open source health IT activist Fred Trotter writes that DSS code is a highly advanced VistA implementation.
With companies like Medsphere, DSS and ClearHealth, projects like WorldVista and Open Health Tools, and knowledgeable experts like Robert Kolodner all working to update and upgrade VistA, the government will get a lot of private sector help in making it a competitive EHR.