Kendall: DoD 'may end up with a VistA derivative'

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As the Defense Department seeks a commercial solution for its electronic health record, it may end up with something akin to the Veterans Affairs Department's Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA, after all.

"I think, in an ideal world, [VA] would have preferred that we simply, you know, go along with them, but we don't--we may end up there. When we do the source selection, we may end up with a VistA derivative and be more common in software," said Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, the man now tasked with modernizing DoD's health record system and ensuring records interoperability with the VA.

Kendall spoke about the department's recent decision during a May 22 press briefing, two days after a memo surfaced explaining DoD's intent to move forward with plans to acquire a commercial EHR solution.

Kendall said the department is still committed to interoperability with VistA. He led a 30 day review on the best course forward for DoD and concluded that "a competitive approach, which taps into the commercial market and brings in some modernized commercial systems as candidates, along with VistA-based systems," was the best path.

"We did market research on this, and we had about 20 responses from industry," said Kendall. "Three of them were from VistA-based approaches, and the rest were from other approaches. So we think we have a rich field to pick from," he said.

Using a modernized version of the open source solution VistA--as is the plan at VA--was not an option for DoD because VA has a "different business equation," said Kendall. At VA, VistA is already the embedded standard and clinicians are already trained on the system.

Kendall said a commercial solution will offer DoD more capability than currently exists on its legacy system, the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology application, known as AHLTA. By going to market vendors compete on efficiency, price and capabilities, he added.

"We'd like to position ourselves to take advantage of additional advances in terms of the functionality that'll be in software in the future. And that will be a factor and the best value determination," he said.

During the briefing Kendall also emphasized that, although he is the new project lead, the department's Deputy Chief Management Officer Beth McGrath will still be very involved.

"I would liken it in some ways to the--what's in our normal system, the program executive officer role. But it's going to be--it's going to be tailored to this particular problem. It's very important that we get this right upfront," said Kendall.

For more:
- read a transcript from the press briefing

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