Ken Kizer, CEO of Medsphere and former top VA official, pitches open source medical software to Congress

Kenneth Kizer spoke to the Ways & Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. He pitched the virtues of electronic medical records but focused on open source. He suggested that Congress make the selection of open source software the default mode for federal funds. Here’s what he said specifically:

Open source software is less well developed in health care than for some other enterprises, but open source software solutions for health care are now rapidly evolving.

In this vein, I urge the Committee to consider making open source software the first consideration in selecting any new software purchased with federal funds. This should be the case across the federal government – for health care and non-health care federal procurement alike. This requirement should apply to software purchases made by all federal agencies and purchases made by state and local governments and private parties using federal funds (including research funds).

Even in the absence of federal funding per se, I believe that the federal government’s policy should be to support and utilize open source software as the preferred option whenever possible because of its many advantages over proprietary software.

I recommend Congress do as some states and other countries have done and legislate that open source software must be first considered when federal funds are used to purchase new software. If there is no appropriate open source solution available, then one could turn to proprietary options.

I am confidant that the federal government would save billions of dollars in licensing fees alone over the next 10 years by preferentially pursuing open source solutions. The government would likely also realize substantial savings through collaborative public-private projects and increased software functionality while harnessing a robust stream of innovation in the future.

He recommended the following strategy to the committee (the following is taken from the MedSphere press release sent out last week):

  • The use of open source software for any new healthcare and non-healthcare software purchased with federal funds in order to take advantage of the lower costs as well as the easier integration of open source systems with third-party and legacy applications.
  • A public-private partnership under which 5% of the funds annually appropriated to the VA for VistA research and development would be redirected for five years to support VistA enhancements that will enable both government and private health care providers to leverage the government’s existing investment in the VistA system.
  • A requirement that healthcare providers adopt an electronic health record by 2015 or another date established by lawmakers in order to continue participating in the Medicare program. To encourage more rapid adoption, Kizer will propose a two-phase process under which early adopters would receive higher Medicare payment rates for each year until the final deadline.
Author

Shahid N. Shah

Shahid Shah is an internationally recognized enterprise software guru that specializes in digital health with an emphasis on e-health, EHR/EMR, big data, iOT, data interoperability, med device connectivity, and bioinformatics.