DSS Offers Open Source vxVistA Electronic Health Record Framework

DSS, Inc., the leading developer of enhancements to VistA, announced it will open source the code for its vxVistA electronic health record (EHR) framework. In this major development, DSS has effectively removed the greatest obstacle to collaboration in the VistA community by providing their enhanced version of VistA under a commercially-friendly open source license that can be used to unite the VistA community.

Mark Byers, president and CEO of DSS, Inc., said “vxVistA is being released as open source software at a critical time in this country’s history. The health care crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country. VistA deployments in the private sector have demonstrated that VistA can provide private hospitals and clinics with the highest quality Electronic Health Record in the shortest amount of time — for a fraction of the cost of competing products.” According to Byers, “We can lower the cost of health care while significantly increasing the quality of that care by implementing VistA across the United States.”

A large number of health care leaders in the United States also believe that VistA provides the ideal framework for rapidly implementing electronic health records across the country. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced the Health-e Information Technology Act (HR 6898) last fall that lays out a clear strategy in this regard.

As an integral part of its actions, DSS applied for membership in the Open Health Tools (OHT) Foundation. OHT is the leading non-profit organization for open source health care projects. Skip McGaughey, executive director of Open Health Tools said, “We are very excited about DSS joining OHT and making such a significant contribution. The VistA technology has been used by millions of people and is the established benchmark for the industry. We are looking forward to helping DSS bring this technology to a worldwide community.”

Byers explained, “DSS has been looking for an approach for the past two years to provide an open source version of vxVistA. OHT presented us with the kind of approach that we were looking for as well as a commercially-friendly license that was acceptable to the members of the VistA community.” The vxVistA EHR framework will be part of the OHT Forge project.

The OHT Foundation is modeled after the Eclipse Foundation, one the most successful open source projects today. vxVistA will be released under the Eclipse Public License (EPL). By using the EPL, all members of the VistA community, including competitors, will be able to use vxVistA as the core framework for their products and innovations.

vxVistA is a commercial implementation of an enhanced version of VistA, the award-winning Enterprise-class health system developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). DSS has added over 100 enhancements to the VistA core.

Peter Groen, a leading advocate of VistA in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) since its inception, applauded DSS’ move. Groen, who was the national director of the Health IT Sharing Office within the VHA prior to his retirement said, “This is an extremely important move. DSS has tremendous credibility and a long successful track record with VistA. As the OHT Foundation and its key members get behind this, major advances and new markets will open up for VistA and the many companies supporting it.” According to Groen, “This becomes a key step in moving ownership of VistA into the larger ‘open community’ where it belongs and can be free to continue growing and adapting to meet the needs of the ever changing world of health care.”

In addition to being released under the Eclipse Public License, vxVistA’s framework will follow that of the Eclipse Foundation. Companies will be able to collaborate to build products by programming and packaging plug-ins, modules and extensions to vxVistA’s core framework. One of the most important factors for selecting OHT was the fact that OHT is fully compatible with the Eclipse technology.

  • Focus on Value-Add: Using the VistA ecosystem framework, VistA vendors, users, and contributors will be able to focus on their distinguishing features, rather than wasting time reinventing the base code.
  • Lower Development Costs: Contributors will have lower application development costs enabling them to get to market faster.
  • Lower Risk of Adoption: Users will face a significantly lower risk of adoption than proprietary, closed-source applications as there will be an entire ecosystem and community behind vxVistA.
  • Enhanced Testing and Debugging: vxVistA is based on the latest version of the VA’s VistA code base, which has been continually updated with patches and enhancements by DSS. As open source code, vxVistA will benefit from a much wider audience of programmers now able to more thoroughly test and debug it.
  • Compatible Programs: Programs using the same vxVistA framework will be compatible through the use of plug-ins and modules, as multiple plug-ins and modules can be used with a single instance of the framework.
  • Potential for Widespread Use: vxVistA’s compatibility with other framework programs will lead to its widespread use by hospitals, clinics, medical practices and worldwide programming community.
  • Potential for Enormous Taxpayer Savings: Improvements made to vxVistA can be reinvested into VistA, potentially saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in updates to the VA’s VistA code base. By collaborating with the open source community, the VA will be able to continually improve VistA for a fraction of the cost presently proposed.

Open Health Tools CEO Skip McGaughey comments, “Open source is all about collaboration and is increasingly being recognized as the currency in the new economy. This project is all about meeting an industry need and promoting standards to solve complex interoperability problems in health care.”

vxVistA is also available in an Enterprise version, which includes DSS-developed modules for professional services, support and training.

About DSS, Inc.
Since 1994, DSS, Inc. has provided the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and numerous commercial health care providers with enhancements to VistA, an-integrated administrative and clinical software application. DSS Inc.’s VistA integrated applications include billing, coding, dental, document imaging, fee basis claims processing, ICU, medical charting, mental health, patient registration, radiology decision support, release of medical information, surgery, and telephone triage. DSS, Inc. employs its special expertise in integrating administrative and clinical medical software applications in the commercial marketplace as well, currently providing over a dozen companies with VistA integration. DSS, Inc. is one of seven contract holders in the VA VistA Contractor Support (VCS) blanket purchase agreement (BPA). VCS vendors provide contracted software maintenance and support the 110 modules which comprise VistA. Since, DSS, Inc. has been providing a commercialized version of VistA (vxVistA) to the U.S. health care market.

About Open Health Tools
Open Health Tools is an open source community with a vision of enabling an ubiquitous ecosystem where members of the Health and IT professions can collaborate to build interoperable systems that enable patients and their care providers to have access to vital and reliable medical information at the time and place it is needed. Open Health Tools will generate a vibrant active ecosystem involving software product and service companies, medical equipment companies, health care providers, insurance companies, government health service agencies, and standards organizations.

vxVistA and VistA are trademarks or service marks of DSS, Inc., and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs respectively.