VistA Wins Important Convert

It may be a mouthful to explain, but a bit of history in healthcare information technology is being made at Midland (Texas) Memorial Hospital.

Midland Memorial is likely the first U.S. acute-care hospital outside the Veterans Health Administration to install a clinical information system based on that agency's Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, known as Vista. Just as significant is that a private IT company has emerged to install the Vista system for the first time in a private, acute-care hospital.

The financial impact for Midland is more straightforward. Midland's IT project is budgeted for $7.1 million, well below half the $18 million price tag comparable commercial systems would cost, according to David Whiles, director of information systems.

In February, the hospital contracted with Medsphere Systems Corp. to install its Medsphere OpenVista software system throughout Midland's main hospital, its west side campus and its inpatient rehabilitation hospital, with 230 staffed beds. Medsphere is targeting sales in small to midsized hospitals, said Scott Shreeve, a physician cofounder of the company and its chief medical officer. Its software is based on the VA's Vista system, often called FOIA Vista, because copies of the software running at 157 VA hospitals and 850 clinics are available nearly free under the Freedom of Information Act. The only cost is a $47 copying charge.

Medsphere recently installed FOIA Vista in seven nursing homes operated by the Oklahoma Veterans Affairs Department, Shreeve said, but this will be its first sale of its own version of Vista to an acute-care hospital.

Medsphere also will create interfaces between its system and a half dozen or so systems that Midland will keep, including its year-old picture archiving and communications and radiology information systems, or PACS-RIS, from IDX Systems Corp.; its Orsos surgery department management system from Per Se Technologies; and its QS Perinatal monitoring system from GE Healthcare.

Whiles said that about two years ago the hospital received word that several of its key software systems would no longer be supported by their vendors. Instead of looking simply to replace only the aging systems, the hospital embarked on a strategic analysis of its future IT needs, Whiles said. From that came a plan to also update Midland's aging laboratory and pharmacy systems, add a PACS-RIS and an electronic medical-records system.

Then Whiles went shopping for the package and got a jolt. "We were looking at north of $18 million based on best estimates of pricing in the market at that time," he said.

Whiles said he started exploring open-source alternatives and then began lengthy conversations with Medsphere.

The hospital signed a contract with Medsphere in February. Whiles said configuration and interface development is well under way and they plan to begin using the computerized laboratory and pharmacy modules in August or September and patient documentation will be launched in December.