VistA for the NHS

Ewan Davis | Woodcote Consulting | July 25, 2012

VistA is the open source electronic health record (EHR) system developed and used in the American Veteran’s Health Administration (VA). It is widely acknowledged that over recent years the VA has transformed itself from one of the worst healthcare provider to probably the best in the USA with its use of VistA rightly credited as on of the key enablers of this transformation.

This has success has spurred the development of WorldVistA and The Campaign for NHS VistA I’ve been aware of VistA for may years and have followed its’ progress with interest, but had not been convinced that it had much to offer in a NHS context. However, over recent months, mainly through my work with HANDI I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of those promoting VistA in the  UK, from the VA and from WorldVista and am now persuaded that bringing VistA to the UK could help to enable transformation in the NHS...

In my view VistA’s strength is not that it is a single system, but that it is a systems built from the ground up with development that has been clinically led from the front-line and which because of its open source model has managed to get strong engagement from front-line staff and been able to benefit from improvement and extension from a community of users and developers (particularly users who are also developers) which is now global...

So in conclusion I have a different vision for VistA in the NHS than  the NHS Campaign for VistA. However, we both want to see an NHS version of VistA and we both want to see it widely implemented. So let not worry about where we hope and think this should lead. Looking at the NHS Campaign for VistA’s  8 point plan  The first six steps align broadly with what I want to see happen so lets get on an do it and see where it leads us which I suspect might be a different than any of us currently expect.


Open Health News' Take: 

The NHS Campaign for VistA  8-point plan makes a lot of sense.  Start small, modify the system to meet NHS needs, test the limits of the system, join the open source VistA community, and take advantage of  developers and users around the world collaborating to continually improve the system.  The only way to stay on top of the rapidly changing world of medicine (e.g. genomics, preventive care)  is to work with the 'open' eHealth community as the EMR systems of today evolve into the systems needed to meet the needs of the future. Build an ecosystem around VistA and turn it into the NHS VistA system for the UK. Several other major healthcare organizations and nations are in various stages of the process to do just that.   To learn more about VistA, check out these articles, news clips, and information in Open Health News (OHN) about VistA and the community supporting the system at     -  Peter Groen, Senior Editor, OHN