Open Health & VistA Champion To Be Honored at White House Ceremony

Roger A. MaduroU.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Todd Park is going to honor Matt McCall, a well-known champion of open health and VistA, at a White House ceremony tomorrow, Thursday August 23. As Open Health News reported nearly seven weeks ago, McCall has been named Presidential Innovation Fellow. In this role McCall is working on several major open source projects in healthcare including the 'Blue Button' initiative, as well as the HealtheMe personal health record (PHR). McCall has been active particularly in the VistA community and the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA) code repository organization.

The announcement was made by Todd Park in a letter released yesterday. According to Park, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will be officially launched at the White House ceremony tomorrow. In an official communique, Park points out that "this new initiative is bringing in top innovators from outside government to work with top innovators inside government to create real and substantial changes that will in a very short time frame benefit the American people, save taxpayers money, and help create new jobs."

The White House event will be streamed live on beginning at 10am EDT. The event will count with the participation of many "champions of innovation in government," including Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeff Zients, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management John Berry, and U.S. Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel.

According to Park, the Presidential Innovation Fellows will lead the following five game-changing projects:

  • Blue Button for America (@ProjectBlueBtn) will spread the ability for millions of Americans to easily and securely download their own health information electronically, empowering them to take that information with them should they change insurer or provider and share it with their loved ones or doctors if they choose, all while fueling the emergence of time-saving, money-saving, and even life-saving products and the businesses and jobs that those products will support.
  • MyGov (@ProjectMyGov) will create a rapid prototype of a streamlined online system that citizens will be able to use to easily access the information and services that are right for them from across the federal government. 
  • Open Data Initiatives (@ProjectOpenData) will accelerate and expand our efforts to make government data more publicly accessible in "computer-readable" form and spur the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.
  • The 20% Initiative (@ProjectTwenty) will work to transition "the last mile" of international development assistance payments from cash to electronic methods -- lowering administrative costs, promoting financial inclusion, and reducing theft, fraud, and violence.
  • RFP-EZ (@ProjectRFPEZ) will develop a new process and online marketplace that will make it vastly easier for the government and small high-growth tech startups to do business with each other, effectively opening up the government market to these startups as never before and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of American businesses. 

Until his appointment, McCall was working at the leader of the OSEHRA Code Convergence initiatives. As we wrote in this article, the convergence initiative is one of the most important elements of the OSEHRA custodial agent's efforts to create a sustainable open source code development ecosystem for the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) EHR, VistA. The VA's VistA, recognized as the world's best hospital-based EHR, has been implemented not only in the VA and in a variant known as RPMS in the Indian Health Service (IHS), it has also been implemented in more than 1,000 private healthcare facilities across the world. The challenge is that several forks of VistA emerged. The mission of the convergence initiative is to bring all of those VistA forks together into a common core code base.

This is a central element of the VA's open source strategy. This strategy was the focus of discussion at the recent Open Source Think Tank in Napa last April. As we reported in an article titled VA To Invest Billions in Open Source Transition, the VA's IT leadership, CIO Roger Baker, CTO Peter Levin, and Mike O'Neill, Senior Advisor to the Director, VA Innovation Initiative, sought advice from the leadership of the open source movement as to the best way to proceed with their open source strategy. This project is going exceedingly well and will be the focus of the upcoming 1st Annual OSEHRA Open Source EHR Summit & Workshop, 17-18 October 2012, taking place at the Gaylord Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.

Previous to his work at OSEHRA, Matt McCall did a spectacular jot as project manager of the open source HealtheMe personal health record (PHR) solution. As detailed by our Senior Editor, Peter Groen, in this article, HealtheMe was developed by KRM Associates for use in many rural healthcare facilities across West Virginia. HealtheMe was recently turned over to the OSEHRA for release to the VistA and global healthcare communities.

HealtheMe was designed to be an open source alternative to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) My HealtheVet PHR system. It contains all of the major features of My HealtheVet and more. In fact, it meets most of the requirements for an Interactive Preventive Health Record (IPHR) system as described in the recently released publication by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) entitled "A Handbook for Using Patient-Centered Personal Health Records To Promote Prevention".

The White House has taken a bold step in appointing such a strong advocate of open source in healthcare to this key position. Based on his record so far, Matt McCall should do a great job.