What Would It Take To Get More Hospitals On VistA?

Posted on January 22, 2013 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 www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Recently, we shared the story of of a California community hospital that decided to bypass big vendors like Cerner and Epic and go for a VistA installation instead. While Oroville Hospital ended up spending $10 million on its VistA implementation, that turned out to be about half of what it would have spent on Cerner and its big-vendor cousins. Then, to boot, Oroville got a $5 million Meaningful Use payout.

Yes, without a doubt, Oroville had a different experience when it went with VistA than it would have if it hired on Epic and had armies of be-suited consultants descend onto its campus. Any open source project faces the risk that the fervor and volunteer labor that makes up the backbone of its ongoing development efforts.

But given how much flexibility hospitals get out of the deal, and how much they save, it seems to me that you’d still expect to see more VistA projects being mounted.  What would it take? Here’s a few ideas:

*  Get a CCHIT-certified VistA product out there:  Right now, hospitals don’t have such a choice. The only reason Oroville got its instance certified was thanks to special help from World VistA.

* Have more happy talk stories on how VistA can really work appear in serious business publications like Forbes:   Arguably, peer pressure is a major reason hospitals stick to a short list of popular solutions.  More coverage of VistA successes in major pubs creates its own buzz which may encourage IT leaders to reconsider their existing plans.

* VistA consulting firms need to become more common:  Right new there are a few firms, like Medsphere, that will walk hospitals through the VistA installation process. But what if, say, Accenture had a division devoted to VistA support?

There’s not a lot you can do if a hospital CEO is determined to buy Epic or Meditech or Cerner. But if they want to consider VistA, there’s a lot the industry could do to help.