Former VA undersecretary urges use of open source EHRs

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Kenneth W. Kizer, MD, MPH, the chairman and CEO of Medsphere Systems Corporation and the former Undersecretary of Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, proposed a low-cost plan to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records in testimony before the Subcommittee on Health, Committee on Ways and Means, of the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

During his years at the VA, Kizer was instrumental in implementing the department’s highly acclaimed open source VistA EHR system. The VistA system has been field-tested for more than 20 years in 1,300 medical centers and clinics and played a key role in raising the quality of care in VA hospitals. 
 
In his testimony, Kizer urged lawmakers to follow the VA’s lead in utilizing open source software to lower the cost of implementing electronic health records and thereby improve the quality and safety of healthcare as well as reduce soaring healthcare costs. Kizer’s three-part strategy includes: the use of open source software for any new healthcare and non-healthcare software purchased with federal funds; a public-private partnership under which 5 percent of the funds annually appropriated to the VA for VistA research and development would be redirected for five years to support VistA enhancements; and a requirement that healthcare providers adopt an electronic health record by 2015 or another date established by lawmakers in order to continue participating in the Medicare program.