Members of the VistA community gave Roger Baker a standing ovation Tuesday after the assistant secretary for information technology at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department told them—at least in part—what they've been waiting nine years to hear.
Baker said the VA is now fully committed to a proposed open-source development program to improve VistA, the VA's VistA electronic health-record system.
"We're moving ahead," Baker said. "I think, for good or bad, we're moving ahead with open source for the VA."
According to Baker, the path seemed clear after a fairly uneventful hearing May 11 before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The relative calm, he interpreted, was an indicator that congressional opposition to the project may not materialize.
"I won't claim consensus or universality on open source with the Hill folks, but I will claim I think we're not going to get stopped by folks on the Hill," Baker said.
The deadline was Friday, May 20, for submissions in response to a VA request for proposals to create what's described as a "custodial agent" to oversee future open-source development of the VA's EHR system.
Mike O'Neill, senior adviser to the director of the VA's Innovation Initiative, said in an earlier presentation at the WorldVistA meeting Tuesday that the VA aims to choose the new open-source overseer by summer. He would not disclose the number of companies that responded to the VA's request for proposals or the names of those that did.
World VistA, a not-for-profit organization formed in 2002 to promote the use of an open-source version of VistA outside the VA, hosted the three-day community meeting this week at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.