Open Source

Questions loom about the future of open source at VA

LaVerne Horton Council

VA CIO LaVerne Council is faced questions from open source advocates about the future of Vista.

The CIO for the Department of Veterans' Affairs sought to reassure stakeholders that the agency was committed to open source in the future, but with Congress pressuring the agency to give up the homegrown health record system VistA, the open source community is a bit perplexed. 

"We really had to think about our open source platform…that is where we will be working over the next few years," CIO Laverne Council said at a conference in Maryland on June 28.

The Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance, which hosted the conference, provides commercial access to the VistA software to hospitals and health care systems. The group is understandably concerned about whether VA intends to support development of VistA beyond the scheduled round of releases under the current modernization program.

Council has told Congress that VA is re-evaluating where VistA stands post-2018. Undersecretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin has noted that the future of VistA might be more cloud-based, rely on commercial off-the-shelf products, or a mixture of both. That leaves the open source community wary of what the future might hold.

"The people who have just arrived into the VA don't know about VistA, whether or not they realize what they've got and why it would be hard to shift from it," Nancy Anthracite, a group leader for OSHERA, told FCW. She said "the users really like it," and noted that newer commercial products might not be compatible with VA's business processes and approach to patient care.

The solution for moving toward more of an open source environment may depend on the VA's digital health platform. Council said that is "really the direction we should go. We believe that VistA….is a viable resource but not the only viable resource. The real question is ... how do you create a platform that others can innovate on?"

"As we were thinking about VistA and the importance of VistA," Council continued,  "the question was really how do we get the biggest motivators to think about it differently. And EHR is a heartbeat to the system."  But it is not the entire system, she said, adding that clinical management, clinical operations are also important aspects that need to be "done well" for a better veteran experience.

The Obama administration is pushing the use of open source in government more broadly. A recent draft policy would create a new set of rules for custom code developed by or for the federal government to be more open, sharable and reusable. 

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


Featured

  • Telecommunications
    Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu

    GSA extends EIS deadline to 2023

    Agencies are getting up to three more years on existing telecom contracts before having to shift to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle.

  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen

    OMB looks to retrain feds to fill cyber needs

    The federal government is taking steps to fill high-demand, skills-gap positions in tech by retraining employees already working within agencies without a cyber or IT background.

  • Acquisition
    GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock)

    GSA to consolidate multiple award schedules

    The General Services Administration plans to consolidate dozens of its buying schedules across product areas including IT and services to reduce duplication.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.