Healthcare Business News

Hospital builds open-source eRx module from VistA

By Joseph Conn
Posted: December 11, 2012 - 3:00 pm ET

Oroville (Calif.) Hospital plans to release as open source an electronic prescribing software module it developed to use with its open-source version of VistA, the Veterans Affairs Department's electronic health record system.

The module, eRx Vista, will let Oroville clinicians send e-prescriptions to community-based retail pharmacies and could be of significant benefit to the growing VistA open-source community.

"Now that eRx VistA has been open-sourced, any of the more than 50 private and state hospitals that have implemented VistA in the U.S. can incorporate the module into their EHRs," 113-bed Oroville, about 70 miles north of Sacramento, announced in a news release.

The question remains whether the VA will one day make use of the gift.

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Last year, the VA launched the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent, a not-for-profit organization established to continue the development of the VA's health information technology program and to create an open source repository for the public domain, VistA software code.

OSEHRA CEO Seong Ki Mun could not be reached by deadline to comment on Oroville's announcement.

Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of health informatics at the Veterans Health Administration, the VA's healthcare arm, in an e-mail said the Oroville software would have to be evaluated before it could be considered for incorporation into VistA, and that process hasn't begun.

In October, Cullen announced that the VA would test and seek certification for VistA under a process developed by HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. ONC-certified software is deemed eligible for use by providers under the federal EHR incentive payment programs created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Resource and Patient Management System, or RPMS, a VistA derivative used by the Indian Health Service within HHS, has been ONC-certified for use in the incentive payment program since early 2011, when Cullen worked at the IHS as its chief information officer. Other for-profit companies, Medsphere Systems and DSS, have certified versions of the VistA EHR systems as well.

Shanna Roelofson, Oroville's director of marketing, said the VA has previously incorporated numerous software bug fixes submitted by the hospital.

Because the VA is an integrated delivery system with its own in-house and mail-order pharmacies, it did not build an e-prescribing tool into VistA to link VA clinicians with external retail pharmacies.

Last year, Oroville Hospital achieved ONC certification with its open-source VistA version developed by the not-for-profit WorldVistA organization and then attested to having met Stage 1 meaningful-use requirements. The hospital received nearly $2.2 million under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payment programs.

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