“There are many sources of supply—commercial off-the-shelf, propriety, open-source,” said session presenter David Wennergren, deputy assistant secretary of defense for information management and technology, and the department's chief information officer.
“You do not have to be open-source software to participate,” Wennergren said. But, he said, “You have to be able to plug in” to what he described as an “open architecture.”
Wennergren said open-source developers are free to contribute, and may be able to create some of the modules that the new system needs, “but realistically, most of these applications will come from markets that are already out there.” Development should take four years, he said.
Last year, the VA committed to enhancing its VistA EHR system—created over the past 30 years at several billions of taxpayer dollars—through an open-source development initiative, creating a “custodial agent” to oversee future development.
It remains to be seen what impact the mixed VA/Defense development program will have on a growing community of private-sector healthcare organizations relying on an open source version of VistA.
Joining Wennergren on the panel was the VA's Stanley Lowe, interim deputy director of the Interagency Program Office, a joint management agency created in 2008 to oversee the push toward interoperability between the electronic record systems of the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.
Lowe called on vendors and contractors to join in the development of the new, joint system.
“The private sector is going to be critically important to the success of the electronic medical record,” Lowe said.