Baghdad hospital to get version of VA electronic health records software

Developer says application will help Iraqi providers focus on patient care rather than on billing.

While the Defense Department continued to resist using the Veterans Affairs Department's electronic health records software, the Army released a solicitation in October to use the application in a military hospital in Baghdad.

The Army's Joint Theater Support Contracting Command in Baghdad said it wants a vendor to install an open source version of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture at the 50-bed Al Muthana Military Hospital, operated by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

The solicitation calls for WorldVistA software, which can be downloaded for free from a nonprofit website.

"WorldVistA will greatly enhance the Iraqis' capability to communicate with each other, which in turn will provide quality health care to the people of Iraq," said Army Col. Andrew Kosmowski, the senior medical adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense Surgeon General's Office, in a statement.

The Army will ask the winning bidder to install the software on servers and 50 computers at the hospital, a nearby prosthetics center and the Ministry of Defense's network operations center, and to conduct a training program in Arabic.

Tom Munnecke, who helped develop VistA at the VA and then served as chief scientist for Science Applications Corp., where he worked on developing the Defense electronic health records system, said the software will help Iraqi providers focus on patient care, rather than on billing and other administrative tasks.

Munnecke added that while the Iraqis are getting a version of VistA tailored to their needs, they also are joining a global community of health care organizations and experts using and developing Open Source VistA. This means Iraq can tap the experience of experts who not only know how the system works, "but are a whole lot cheaper" than foreign consultants, Munnecke said.

Joseph Dal Molin, a Toronto, Ontario-based VistA developer who helped install an open source version of the software in neighboring Jordan, said he expects the kingdom to help Iraq with its VistA deployment in light of the strong relationship between the two countries.

Dal Molin added he would not be surprised if Iraq decides to use VistA elsewhere in its health care system after the Ministry of Defense completes its installation.

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