Magazine article Drug Topics

Open Source Spurs E-Record Adoption

Magazine article Drug Topics

Open Source Spurs E-Record Adoption

Article excerpt

The move toward all-electronic health records (EHRs) is gathering momentum and support. Just over 38% of U.S. hospitals now use EHRs, according to a recent survey conducted by ASHP. Thaf s up from 31% in 2007. In hospitals that use EHRs, 94% of pharmacies have access to oatient records.

"An EHR brings pertinent information to the point of care," said Mark Siska, B.S.Pharm., assistant director of informatics and technology for pharmacy services at Mayo Clinic Rochester. "An EHR connects the triad of care-pharmacists, physicians, and nurses. Your decisions are better because you are better informed."

More information at the point of care is just the beginning. An EHR gives clinicians masses of population data that have not been readily available from paper records. A growing number of studies show that EMRs are a fast, efficient, and cost-effective means to improve care by identifying high-risk patients who would benefit from specific interventions. And, for the first time, EHRs are showing signs of affordability. Open-source software originally developed at Veterans Affairs is pulling EHR pricing down from stratospheric levels.

In Midland, Texas, Midland Memorial Hospital is spending $7.1 million to convert its 371-bed hospital, three-campus system to OpenVista, an open-source EHR from Californiabased Medsphere. OpenVista is based on the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) developed by Veterans Affairs.

Bids from similar proprietary systems came in around $18 million, according to David Whiles, Midland information systems director. Midland is the first community hospital in the country to go live with the opensource EHR. "We are at the front edge of a move toward opensource products in healthcare," said Medsphere president/CEO Kenneth Kizer, MD. "The biggest single advantage we have is cost. With OpenVista, you don't have the excessive fees associated with licensing proprietary software."

Kizer headed the VA health system from 1994 through 1999 and pushed development of what is currently the largest EHR system in the country. Because VistA was created with taxpayer dollars, the source code is in the public domain. An active developer and user community is constantly improving the open source system. Medsphere was founded in 2002 to rework VistA for the open-source Linux operating system. …

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