Breaking News: CMS Releases Beta VOE

September 19th, 2005 CMS released an ‘evaluation version’ of the highly anticipated Vista Office EHR (VOE) according to this CMS website press release. Highlights of the press release are that apparently CMS is going to evaluate how implementations are working at a limited number of beta test sites, then consider standards for ‘certification criteria and process’ through WorldVistA. More information, including system requirements and what makes a beta test site can be found at There does not appear to be a place in which anyone can download the software and I read this to mean there probably won’t be one unless you qualify as a beta test site or qualified vendor. Click Read More for the full text of the CMS announcement.

Monday September 19th, 2005 for immediate release


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today released an evaluation version of VistA-Office Electronic Health Record (Vista-Office), an adaptation of the Veterans Health Administration electronic health record (EHR) technology. This version of the technology will allow for an evaluation of VistA-Office EHR and an assessment of its effectiveness in private physicians offices.

The evaluation version will be distributed by qualified vendors and evaluated for usability, effectiveness, implementation and potential for what is known as interoperability, or the ability to communicate, exchange, and use data with other systems and software. As a result of this evaluation, software vendors will be able to further improve the software and develop a version of VistA-Office EHR that is certified in accordance with a process recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

�The President has set a national goal for most Americans to have an electronic health record within a decade, and CMS is working with providers to make that happen,� said CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. �The release of an evaluation version of VistA-Office will provide a testing laboratory for interoperability and will supplement efforts by the American Health Information Community to establish a certification criteria and process. When fully realized, electronic health record software will help physicians improve health care quality while avoiding unnecessary costs.�

A certification process will identify standards and minimum requirements to allow electronic health record systems to share important data across settings of care and perform the most important functions of an electronic health record system while maintaining privacy and security of data. EHRs that become certified and that can enable the reporting of quality measures will support CMS quality improvement goals. These systems will also help achieve a national goal of widespread adoption of interoperable EHRs within ten years.

The release will also allow for the evaluation of VistA-Office EHR in physician offices, with particular attention to whether and how physician offices can implement the software effectively. This process will take place while HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, through the Community, considers approaches for certifying interoperability and functional capabilities of electronic health records systems.

The modified Vista-Office software retains existing VistA functions of such transactions as order entry, documentation templates, and clinical reminders, and is enhanced with other important functions including physician office patient registration, reporting of quality measures, and printing/faxing of medication prescriptions.

The Vista-Office evaluation software is not �free� software. There is a small fee for obtaining the software on computer disk, and there will be other fees an office will need to pay to use the software including licensing and support fees for the database program and CPT� codes. The added office staff cost associated with the implementation of an EHR will also be a part of the total cost of ownership and will play a part in physicians’ decisions to adopt and test Vista-Office.

In addition, offices will generally need vendor support for installation, configuration, and maintenance, similar to support with any other electronic health record. To address this need, CMS has funded a Vista-Office Vendor Support Organization, WorldVistA, to provide training for vendors. The evaluation of these vendor services is an important objective of the initial VOE release.

During this initial evaluation period, the software will be available from qualified vendors. Physicians and clinics that are interested in participating in the program as an evaluation site, should visit to learn more about this opportunity. More information about the vendor training and a list of qualified vendors can be found at

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