US-UK Sign Health IT Bilateral Agreement-OSEHRA played key early role in negotiations

The US and UK governments have signed a bilateral agreement on Health IT sharing that has profound implications to the open source software in healthcare, open data, and open source EHRs such as VistA. As noted in this article, the UK's National Health System (NHS) is now following an open source strategy for health IT. This strategy replaces the original strategy of using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software which ended up in complete failure and a loss of at least $19.6 billion. The US has been following the same early NHS strategy with the US healthcare system spending over one trillion dollars so far in COTS software and facing an even more spectacular failure. 

Momentum towards this bilateral agreement has been building for some time in particular due to increasingly close collaboration between the US Veterans Health Administration and the UKs NHS. This collaboration was detailed in a major report released by as reported by Open Health News in this article as well as this press release. Following the release of this report, the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHRA) worked hard to upgrade this relationship to a bi-laterial agreement between the US and UK governments. 

As detailed in an OSEHRA blog post, the organization "participated in early planning meetings for a bi-lateral agreement signed on January 23, 2014, by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.K. Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt." The post points out that this agreement is "intended to strengthen the healthcare systems of both countries..." calling for "collaboration within health information technology, specifically the sharing of information, tools, and strategies."

The post continues "The agreement outlines specific focal areas: Sharing Quality Indicators, Liberating Data and Putting It to Work, Priming the Health IT Market, and most significantly for OSEHRA-- Adopting Digital Health Record Systems. The agreement emphasizes the desire of both nations to implement digital health record systems in the future, highlighting the success of OSEHRA’s members and partners.  For this accomplishment, the open source community should be proud..."

The official press release from the US Department of Health and Human Services on the bi-lateral aggreement can be found here and the agreement itself can be found here

All Eyes on Open Source EHR Panel at HIMSS14

More details on this bi-lateral agreement as well as the gigantic leaps that open source EHR implementatios that are taking place are going to come out during the HIMSS14 conference in Orlando, FL. As detailed in this post, HIMSS asked OSEHRA to organize a 5-hour panel on open source EHRs. 

According to OSEHRA the session "will feature success stories from VistA users including Lutheran Medical Center, the North Carolina Department of Health, Oroville Hospital, and the College of St. Scholastica."

Although not mentioned in the blog post, VistA in the UK will probably be a major topic of discussion. As a result of all the open source developments in NHS, there are currently two hospitals working to implement VistA as pilot deployments that can be used as reference implementations for other NHS hospitals in the UK, and in addition, 13 hospitals currently negotiating with VistA solution providers for VistA implementations. This article from eHealh Insider discusses the latest developments in the effort to adapt VistA to the UK while another article by Ewan Davis titled Overview of Open Source and VistA in the UK's NHS details the challenges faced by VistA in the UK and also provides an extensive background on some of the extraordinary open source projects that are already running in NHS Trust hospitals.

The open source EHR panel at HIMSS14 is also going to feature "Team presentations from OSEHRA members MedRed and Oroville Hospital, winners of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Appointment Scheduling Solution (MASS) Contest." Acccording to OSEHRA, the presenters "will showcase how innovations take place in the open source environment." The session will also include "a report on the status of VistA evolution and code intake will highlight unprecedented collaboration between OSEHRA, Veterans Health Administration, and Indian Health Services.

It seems that the open source EHR session at HIMSS14 may mark the point where open source EHRs are finally recognized as the best and leading solutions for health IT implementations.