VA Launches Open Source Operations

by U.S. Medicine

September 2, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC—VA announced this month that it has chosen a custodian for its open source software initiative, and will be launching the operation immediately. Under a contract awarded in June, The Information Applications Group will be leading the design of an Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA). OSEHRA will act as a central governing body for what VA hopes will become a virtual community dedicated to improving electronic health record technology.

VA announced its intention to move towards an open source framework for its information technology infrastructure earlier this year. Open-source software permits users to study, change, and improve it, and is frequently developed collaboratively, as opposed to proprietary software, which is strictly licensed and forbids modification. According to VA officials, open-source is the best way to ensure that VA’s electronic health record (EHR) system will adapt and improve at a pace with the private sector.

The joint electronic health record being planned between VA and DoD will also be open source, VA officials have said.

As part of the initiation of OSEHRA operations, VA has contributed its current electronic health record, known as VistA (Veterans Integrated System Technology Architecture), to seed the effort. OSEHRA will oversee the community of EHR users, developers, and service providers that will deploy, use, and enhance the EHR software.

Individuals and organizations interested in participating in OSEHRA (www.osehra.org) are invited to join through the community website.  Established as an independent non-profit corporation during its initial phase of operation, OSEHRA is putting in place the framework and the tools that will enable the public sector, private industry, and academia to collaborate to advance EHR technology. 

Draft documents describing key framework components, such as the design of its code repository and the definition of its software quality certification process, are available on the OSEHRA community website. VA is encouraging community feedback as the OSEHRA team finalizes its designs in preparation for launch of full technical operations this fall.

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