Open source Electronic Medical Records software

Chirag mentioned that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has recently released the VA Vista EMR as an application, as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Having studied large-scale EMR systems to some extent, this made me a tad nervous as I hadn’t yet heard about it.

After a bit of research, turns out that I need not worry about this system replacing the likes of Cerner or Eclipsys without government intervention (no pun intended…). At the very least, it is a system that should be watched carefully to see how its use evolves.

The following from a site compiling open-source EMR systems. The bold text is my emphasis. (And, by the way, has anyone heard of the M programming language??)

  • VISTA
    • The U.S. Veteran’s Administration Software.
    • Available free due to the Freedom of Information Act
    • Becoming easier to install the basic system on Linux due to the packaging efforts of World Vista Team.
    • Still very difficult to set up a working installation due to detailed working knowlege of M programming language, and other detailed knowlege of the system required. I suspect the arcane knowlege required to set up and maintain it ensured job security for the team of programmers who spent their entire careers working on VISTA for the VA. This worked well at the VA where the users contributed the ideas and the develpers responded, but resulted in extreme dependence on the developer team provided by the VA. This may be VISTA’s Achille’s heel for the open source transition. Hopefully VISTA can eventually be packaged in a way that mere mortals can set it up and maintain it.
    • The M language used is still good, but newer open source programmers are not familiar with it, which hampers recruitment of new developers.

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