CIO: Consider 'lessons learned' before implementing open source EHRs

Open source electronic health record systems such as VistA are better than closed proprietary systems in terms of development, innovation and continuous quality improvement, but providers can still make the transition run more smoothly, according to Peter Groen, former CIO of Atlanta VA Medical Center.

"Using an open source product reduces risk and supports the goal of vendor independence," Groen said in a July 6 blog post. "If a vendor is inadequate, other companies or technical staff are readily available in the community to take over and provide support."

Groen, offered several lessons learned in implementing an EHR, which he notes can be applied to both open and closed EHR systems. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Preparing a strategic plan and document IT architecture and standards
  • Ensuring that the architecture and standards lead to interoperability and the use of health information exchange
  • Establishing an organizational structure and appointing senior executive staff to make key decisions about EHR implementation
  • Preparing a detailed project plan and policies and procedures
  • Obtaining funding
  • Ensuring open communication
  • Involving unions, if applicable to your health care organization
  • Ensuring that the EHR has the functionality you're looking for
  • Making sure that you have the appropriate level of highly trained technical support staff

Groens' concerns echo those made by other hospital CIOs, who have also admitted to road bumps on the way to implementation. Some have suggested that better planning and communication would boost acceptance of the EHR by clinicians, and that lack of standards and interoperability have hampered implementation efforts.

To learn more:
- read the blog post