BT bets on Medsphere's 'open' EHR

Medsphere, BT join forces on SaaS offering
By Bernie Monegain
11:05 AM
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Irv Lichtenwald, Medsphere Systems CEO partners with BT on hosted model.

The company that prides itself on offering an open source EHR now will also be offering a hosted version.

Medsphere Systems and BT have agreed to jointly promote Medsphere's OpenVista EHR under a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, model. The goal, executives from both companies say, is to relieve hospitals of the many costly and burdensome IT responsibilities.

Medsphere, which has developed and implemented a commercial version of VistA-EHR, built by the Department of Veterans Affairs, will work with BT to promote the affordability of Medsphere's business model and the proven nature of OpenVista. The service will be available in the U.S. and will be based on the BT Compute platform using a private cloud model.

As Medsphere CEO Irv Lichtenwald tells it, Medsphere and BT executives crossed paths and became friendly when both companies were working on projects abroad. Soon after, BT flew a group of its technology experts and software architects to San Francisco to vet the Medsphere offering.

In the past year, says Lichtenwald, it seems Medsphere has drawn more attention than ever before.

"BT is stepping up to the plate to be promoting Medsphere as a SaaS model after having done some real deep due diligence with us," he says. "This is a formal relationship with BT, where BT is going to be marketing the concept with us of going to a hosted model."

Also, Lichtenwald points out that Pricewaterhouse Coopers and General Dynamics, also endorsed Medsphere's technology and approach by partnering with the company to apply for a Department of Defense contract for a new EHR system. The contract, which could be as much as $11.2 million, is expected to be awarded this coming June. Besides the Medsphere group, there are three other consortiums bidding on the project.

Perhaps, Lichtenwald says, people are waking up and realizing there could be a better economic model. "The historical model of some of the proprietary competitors – that approach to life over the long term may not be the way to go," he said.

[See also: Your EHR doesn't have to be a liability.]

"This is a challenging but exciting time to be in American healthcare because there is so much uncertainty and change," said Bas Burger, president of BT in the Americas, in a press statement announcing the deal. "But change means exciting new ideas and opportunities for the best ideas to rise to the top," he added. "BT believes secure, hosted solutions and open, accessible platforms provide the best alternative for many hospitals."

As the financial benefits of meaningful use wane and hospitals move toward maximizing the use of health IT solutions, it has become clear that interoperability, not just interfacing, is a predominant issue moving forward; so is providing EHRs and other solutions for hospitals with limited resources. In SaaS OpenVista, Medsphere and BT see a solution that satisfies both concerns.

"Hospitals are moving away from localized servers and onsite support to reliable remote access. With this relationship, Medsphere and BT are meeting the needs of all hospitals," he adds. 

Medsphere has proven the effectiveness of VistA outside the VA through successful implementations of the company's OpenVista solution in private and non-federal facilities across the healthcare spectrum. The company also does development work on the VA's VistA system and the VistA-derived Resource and Patient Management System used in Indian Health Service facilities. In total, VistA-based systems enhanced by Medsphere are implemented in more than 400 sites of care across the country.

[See also: VistA and Epic: A tale of two systems.]

BT is one of the largest providers of healthcare technology in the world and delivers a range of services across the globe, including complex and large infrastructure contracts for new hospitals, telehealth and telecare provision and electronic health records work.

MedSphere describes OpenVista as "the most fully commercialized VistA offspring." OpenVista is a responsible reapplication of the VA's $8.5 billion investment, executives say, adding that recent studies shows the technology has yielded billions in benefits, primarily from the near elimination of medication administration issues and duplicate testing.

"Now, all of a sudden we've got this nice momentum, says Lichtenwald.

"BT, says, 'look, we're hanging our reputation on working with the technology that Medsphere has.' It helps us, obviously, make people aware of these alternatives. I think it opens lots of opportunities for Medsphere as an organization."