The government is looking for a few willing office-based physicians interested in helping developers adapt the electronic health record system used by the Veterans Health Administration for use in the private sector.
Work on the Vista-Office EHR project, initiated as a joint effort of the Veterans Affairs Department and the CMS, is being performed by the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care under a contract with the CMS.
Vista powers more than 150 VA hospitals and 850 outpatient clinics, but the system needs modification for use in physician offices.
The District of Columbia Department of Health, which is using the system in an outpatient clinic, has a patient scheduling modification that the Vista-Office developers plan on incorporating into the system, according to Capt. Cynthia Wark of the Public Health Service, who is serving as deputy director of the information and systems group in the office of clinical standards at the CMS and is an overseer of the Vista-Office project. Vista-Office developers also plan on incorporating a pediatrics module developed by the Indian Health Service.
Both adaptations are to be tested under the volunteer program. "What we want physicians and other users in their offices to do is go on the Web and run through the scripts and give us feedback," Wark said.
Volunteers will need a connection to the Internet via a Web browser to access a portion of the Vista-Office EHR program and a patient-encounter template. Physicians and office personnel will be asked to follow the script and use the system, then make suggestions for improvements.
Wark said the testing will be an interactive process, with the improvements recommended by the testers incorporated into new versions of the software and retested.
"We intend to do this three times over the next several months," Wark said. "The first phase starts Dec. 1."
The Vista-Office EHR is slated for public release in July 2005. For more information about the tests, go to cms.hhs.gov.