The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that WorldVistA has been named ‘…as a vendor support organization to provide vendor training on the VistA-Office EHR….’ Aside from injecting much-needed funds into the Free and Open Source VistA software effort what does it all mean? Linux Medical News interviewed WorldVistA director Joseph Dal Molin about the announcement. The complete interview is below. The facts at a glance are: 1) Approximately $900,000 awarded for training VistA vendors. 2) The training will be free. 3) Training dates should begin in late August or early September and will be complete by January 2006. 4) Two training tracks will be available, one for those with no VistA experience and one for those with some experience. 5) Training locations will be announced but will likely be held once each in the East, Central and Western United States.
LMN: Congratulations on the award. How did you feel when you found out WorldVistA had won?
JDM: It was like winning the Academy Awards.
LMN: What does this mean for WorldVistA?
JDM: It means that we have got some revenue to help us do what we want to do. It fits into our overall strategy. Part of it is the technical side of our infrastructure to enhance the project and the other is to create the support organizations for it. Our goal is to be as good as the VA in helping the community to create the software. It is really important to have lots of good choice out there as far as vendors that can support the software. The long term success of VistA will be because of good software and skilled vendors for support.
LMN: How much is the award for?
JDM: It is just under a million dollars, $900,000 I think.
LMN: Big money.
JDM: It is a big job. We have a lot to do in a short time frame and we are going to be using as many folks as we can that can do this work. We will be leveraging their efforts for this. We also need to develop a website and supporting educational materials, marketing collateral, and a conference. So, we have several things to do in support of the training itself. We’ve got the VA [Veterans Administration] involved, CMS and Daou involved. We are going to be working with the best of the best. In the early part of the project we will be very interested in gauging the level of demand for the course and getting input from potential attendees on content and duration. We are also going to be looking for how many people are out there that want to be trained as well as the training itself. We have some high goals for what we want to accomplish. But, VistA is a deep subject so we want to engage people who are interested in training in the planning stage. Most of these people are small businesses so we want to see how much they can commit to. It is a balancing act between what we know is needed and what they can actually absorb and be effectively trained.
LMN: What will the training be like?
JDM: There are two tracks, one is for vendors that have no VistA experience at all and those that have already been working with VistA. The goal for the project will be to train as many vendors as we can in the 9 months the contract is running. The end of January 2006 is when the contract ends.
LMN: Will this require a staff?
JDM: We will be subcontracting this through folks that already have a lot of experience doing this.
LMN: How long of a process has it been to get the award?
JDM: The RFI came out February of 2005.
LMN: Not long ago, was it pretty hectic?
JDM: There were 3-4 hectic weeks. I now know what it may feel like to give birth to a child. Getting all the ducks in a row in a short time takes a lot of work.
LMN: Where does this leave other Free and Open Source Projects that are not specifically VistA, like FreeB [Free/Open Source medical billing project]?
JDM: There is certainly an opportunity for FreeB because it addresses an area that VistA-Office does not address. The specs for VistA-Office were published on the CMS website. As far as other projects go, the market is going to determine what is successful and what isn�t. We believe in the Darwininian model. Ultimately, it will be the doctors and clinicians who decided to adopt the software.
LMN: When do you expect actual training of vendors to begin?
JDM: It will be late August or early September and possibly sooner. We are actually going through a detailed planning process now.
LMN: Where will the training occur?
JDM: We will probably have it in 3 different parts of the country, but not at the same time. It will likely be East Coast, West Coast, Central, not necessarily in that order. We want to be able to make it as accessible as possible.
LMN: Specifically who is going to be doing the training?
JDM: We are identifying people right now in the planning process, but we do not want to discuss specifics right now.
LMN: Why is CMS sponsoring this?
JDM: It is part of the VistA-Office EMR [Electronic Medical Record] strategy. There is no point in releasing software for which there is no goal to support it. The idea is to provide as many vendors as possible with the capacity to support it. They [CMS] are not in the software training business. I do not want to put words in their mouth about what their specific strategy is but part of it is to have a mechanism for implementation of quality improvement initiatives.
LMN: Any last words?
JDM: Just a big thank-you to all of the supporters in the community because the community has made us what we are and without it we would not have been able to win this. I think it really made a big difference.
LMN: Congratulations again.
JDM: Thank you.