One was with Chris Richardson, a retired Veterans Affairs Department programmer. Chris is a vice president of WorldVistA, the not for profit organization formed in 2002 to promulgate open-source VistA outside the VA.
Chris spoke of a grass-roots movement in England to try and persuade the folks running one or more of the 60 or so regional health “trusts” administering National Health Service programs there to give VistA a try.
The British government's role in health IT in England has been in flux since September when the Conservative Party pulled the plug on the previous Labor Party government's National Programme for IT, Connecting for Health.
The Labor effort, launched in 2002, wasn't a total botch, even according to the Conservatives. The Brits now have a health IT interoperability services system, called “the Spine,” as well as a common picture archiving and communication system and NHSmail exchange and some other services to show for their £6.4 billion (nearly $10 billion) spent so far, two thirds of which, fortunately, went to those things that work.
The HIT program, according to a British health department statement, “achieved much in terms of infrastructure and this will be maintained, along with national applications, such as the Summary Care Record and Electronic Prescriptions Service.” But the government said it will scrap its predecessors' “top-down approach” and instead find a way to provide electronic health records for the nation's hospitals through a process “driven by local decision-making.”
Dr. Geraint Lewis, a British physician, public heath specialist and researcher, called after the holidays. He'd just moved from the U.K. to Chicago where he's on sabbatical, doing outcomes research with Walgreens. Lewis is a leader in the push for a VistA pilot back home.
It was on a previous research fellowship in New York four years ago with the Commonwealth Fund, Lewis said, that he toured a VA facility near his Manhattan apartment to see VistA demonstrated. Lewis was “completely taken aback by how good it was,” he said. “Every since, I've been lobbing for having for its use in the NHS.”
Since October, open-source VistA has been live at Prince Hamza Hospital and the Amman Comprehensive Clinic in Jordan, according to a call from Joseph Dal Molin, a Canadian who consulted there. Dal Molin is the WorldVistA chairman. Moving forward, a cadre of MUMPS-trained Jordanian programmers are on phase two of their project, installing VistA in all 46 government-run hospitals and 800 clinics. If they succeed, according to Molin, they'll light a beacon for the open-source HIT movement worldwide.
Lewis agrees. “Having that example, showing it can work in a different sector, makes our case that much stronger,” he said.