The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced last week its plan to certify VistA, the open source EMR software system they currently use to document health data for veteran patients. The Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA), a nonprofit open-source community, is helping the VA update VistA in order to make it meaningful use-compliant.
Healthcare professionals must use certified electronic health records technology to qualify for meaningful use incentives through the EHR Incentive Program.
VistA currently meets some of the requirements for meaningful use certification, though it is still lacking other important functionalities. One of them is the ability to send e-prescriptions to external pharmacies, which is something that many veterans want. Due of growing patient interest in electronic prescribing capabilities, the VA has made a commitment to make the feature available to veterans.
Officials also noted that the decision to certify their EMR software is about setting an example and providing healthcare professionals with the tools necessary to deliver better patient care. “If you look at what’s required in certification, all of it benefits patient care. Striving for meaningful use will help us deliver better care for the veterans,” said the Veteran Health Administration’s director of health informatics, Theresa Cullen.
The Veterans Health Administration currently employs VistA in many of its hospitals (152) and ambulatory clinics (more than 700) – and once the system is certified it could be used by other non VA-related medical organizations.
Though the VA has formed a work group to speed up the meaningful use certification process, Cullen has announced that certification might not be accomplished until 2014. The good news for the VA is that other VistA-based software systems have been certified by the ONC, meaning that achieving this goal for VistA is not far-fetched.