Medsphere Makes Varied Pitch for Open Source EMRs

Posted on November 30, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

Historically, most of the arguments for using open source software of any kind revolve around cost and stability (e.g. free software is as cheap as it comes, and you can’t find a bigger dev team than the entire open source community).  But at a recent conference backed by an open source EMR vendor, some hospital IT folks argued that open source tech can offer much more.

At Brooklyn-based Lutheran Medical Center,  a 476-bed teaching hospital, execs plan to attest to meeting Meaningful Use Standards in early 2012.  They’re doing so using Medsphere’s OpenVista, which as most readers would know is the daughter of the Veterans Affairs’ VistA platform.

According to LMC CEO Wendy Goldstein, using OpenVista has been critical in preparing for MU attestation.  As with other enterprise-level open source users, Goldstein likes having access to the source code, she told the audience at Medsphere-backed Meaningful Use NOW conference. ( That certainly makes sense, given the pace at which regulatory demands on hospitals are shifting.)

We already know about open source software’s pricing and development advantages, but is that  OpenVista’s only advantages? Perhaps not.

Medsphere claims that open source EMRs are better for taking on huge tasks such as transforming workflow and business processes, an intriguing if as-yet-unproven claim.  Does having access to the source code really make a big difference in how effectively hospitals can customize their EMR?  I’d argue that the jury is still out on that one.

And Meaningful Use NOW speaker Bill Petasnick of Wisconsin’s Froedtert Health System argued that the best way to unify health IT platforms across various organizations might be to use an open source, open-architecture solution.  That may not be realistic from a market perspective, but it’s worth considering. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the silos fell down?

— P.S.  Want to follow up and check some platforms out?  Check out this list of open source health IT options.