Veterans Affairs (VA) Open Source and Me

A few weeks ago I finally took all my enrollment paperwork to VA and get the process started and to be honest I was skeptical about what the experience would be like—the stories that people tell are pretty horrific at times.

My initial experience has been absolutely amazing!  My husband, Pete, has been enrolled for years; he left the Army in 1997. (Not sure why I never enrolled before other than I kept thinking I’ll do it later.  Here we are 17 years later and I am finally taking care of me, but I digress).  I tagged along with Pete to one of his appointments and found out what paperwork I needed to fill out.  I also found out what supporting documentation I needed to attach to the paperwork to get the this process rolling.

I had the filled out the paperwork, attached my DD214, turned it all in, and waited.  The wait was less than a month. I received the call that my initial appointment had been scheduled.  Unfortunately,  I was literally on a plane when I got the call from VA and the flight attendants were telling us to turn off all electronic devices in preparation for takeoff.  I looked at Pete and told him “help me remember this information” (all my pens and calendar were safely tucked away at that moment).

Secure in the knowledge that my appointment had been scheduled, my mind went back to the event I was on my way to.  When I arrived back home on Monday, I looked at Pete and asked, “I have a VA appointment this week; when was it again?”  Luckily the VA had mailed me a card with all the necessary information on it. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had not missed my appointment and proceeded to plan for my day at the VA (yesterday).

When I arrived at VA I went to the designated area and checked in.  I only had to wait about 10 minutes before the nurse called me back and we started the process. Vitals, questionnaires, and more.  Then I met the doctor, who was patient and very helpful as we went through my meds, documenting the whys and whens of my medical history and more.  Once this examine was over, and I the nurse was instructed he needed to give me a few shots, I signed a few more documents and away I went armed with my instructions to and a todo list. Away I went to get blood work taken care of, an EKG, pick up my new prescriptions and more.

Once I had completed the list of tasks, I went back to the area where my doctor was an gave him my EKG results. Following his review of it, he went over my follow-up instructions.

One more visit with the nurse and it was now time to head back down the mountain and attempt to catch up on the mountain of things that were (and are) steadily growing out of my inbox.

From start to finish I was at VA for about 4.5 hours and relieved that I completed a lot what I had been putting off “until I have time”.

Just to show you that you can find an open source tie to almost everything in life here’s where it is at VA.  Recently the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a RFI (request for information) on Open Source Technology solutions for its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (Vista) system.

The RFI says, “Therefore, the VA is considering an “open source” model for VistA that would enable VA to benefit from innovations that third parties could make available according to a code-sharing framework. Three immediate advantages for VistA development present themselves by doing so: 1) Greater innovation and better integration of new capabilities resulting from collaboration with the open source community, 2) Improvements in capabilities, quality, reliability, and robustness, and 3) Broader proliferation of common electronic health record software and solutions.”

Since I knew this RFI was issued and updated recently, I paid attention to the comments, facial expressions, time it took for the system to update information and how many clicks things took, etc.  There were moments of delay as we were “waiting on the computer”.  As I looked at the screens I could see and understand why ideas for improvements were being looked at.  I can’t wait to see what solutions VA ends up with.

I’m still human (Linux for Human Beings can still apply to me, YAY!), I have some over all general health things that I’ll need to work on and improve (blood sugar, blood pressure, get more exercise, decrease my stress etc), and I have some once a year tests that are being scheduled, all in all,  I feel good about seeing VA for my health care and I am excited to see first hand what if any open source solution(s) are applied to upgrade and improve the VistA system that is currently in use.


2 Responses to “Veterans Affairs (VA) Open Source and Me

  • My dad was in the Marines, and as such had a lot to do with the VA. I am so grateful that they took care of him the way they did. I’m glad they’re taking a good look at open source.

  • kerobaros
    13 years ago

    So, so happy to hear someone having positive experiences with the VA! It’s a shame signal like this tends to get lost among a lot of the noise, but there’s a lot of this kind of signal out there. They do good work.

    (I may be slightly biased. Along with being a young twenty-something FLOSSista, my mother has worked as an accountant for the VA for more than a decade now. And yes, VistA is… broken. Terminally.)

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