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VA Leading Innovation with VistA and OpenVistA EHR


The Veterans Administration is pioneering advances in heath informatics.

By Bisk
VA Leading Innovation with VistA and OpenVistA EHR

Veterans with a passion for medicine, computers or both may find the post-military career they seek in health informatics. This cutting-edge field is in demand as the medical profession seeks to incorporate Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and other technological advances into practice to enhance patient care and outcomes. As it turns out, one of the leaders in innovation in this hybrid field that marries medicine and computers is closer than veterans might think. The VA has been leading the charge in health informatics for more than three decades.

Pioneering for the Future

More than 30 years ago, the VAs medical staff came up with an idea to use computers to better manage patient care. Out of that idea VistA was born and along with it the technology that would change the face of medicine.

Deemed the first ever EHR, VistA includes a fully integrated Computerized Patient Records System (CPRS). This system enables doctors to view entire patient records using a secured network available right on their desktops. From this system, clinicians can track health readings, order testing, see test results, share multimedia reports, refill medications and more.

Over the years, VistA has been updated and added to as VA doctors see the need for new features to make the platform more robust. They’ve also been on the cutting edge of implementing such breakthroughs as bar code medication administration, secure online health records patients can access and other advances.

Patient-Facing Solutions

Though VistA is designed for clinician use, the VA has incorporated a patient-facing interface into the system. My HealtheVet is an online personal health record vets, their dependents and their caregivers can access to help them partner with a health care team. Depending on the subscription level a patient has, HealtheVet users can keep track of and make appointments, order prescription refills, see clinical notes, lab reports, listing of current medical issues and more via a secured online portal.

Sharing the Wealth

As VistA became more robust and useful in managing patient care, VA leaders realized the technology could also serve the civilian world. Paving the way for better recordkeeping and patient care management, the VA created OpenVista. This platform is available free of charge to hospitals, doctors and other medical professionals without licensing fees, making it a cost-effective solution that does cover the bases clinicians require. Operating on a subscription basis, OpenVista provides such management tools as:

  • Bar code medication administration

  • Clinical documentation

  • Clinical flow sheets

  • Health information management system (HIMS)

  • Interfaces to integrate laboratory, pharmacy and radiology information

The system also provides for notifications and reminders to ensure patient care is handled in a timely, expedient fashion.

This open source platform was ranked as the No. 1 physician preferred EHR in the United States in a Medscape survey conducted in July 2014. The system, which was initially designed to help the VA manage 9 million vets over 1,700 different sites, is considered the only national network for patient care.

Paving the Way for Future Innovation

While the VA holds the title for creating the breakthrough in EHRs, it is not content to rest on past accomplishments. The agency actively seeks to provide a pathway to success for those interested in technical fields that support its operations. Through its Technical Career Fields internship program students and graduates can launch their careers by taking part in a two-year paid program that provides hands-on training and mentorship while also offering tuition reimbursement, education debt reduction, scholarships and other benefits.

Veterans seeking opportunity after the military may find it’s closer than they think. For those with a passion for technology and helping others, health informatics might provide the perfect stepping stone back into the civilian world and the VA might offer the training ground necessary for success.

Category: Healthcare