This is huge news. DSS has been a proprietary VistA company for years. They have a tremendous amount of respect in the VistA community for technical competence and they have been slowly building important extensions to VistA for a long time.
vxVistA is a culmination of many of those improvements. DSS has many proprietary components, and not all of them will be released with vxVistA. I understand that DSS will soon have information published through its website that clarifies what is being released and what is not. They have already said that the version that will be released will not be CCHIT certified, although the codebase will largely be the same.
Still I have it on good authority that the release will be substantial. This is important because there are many missing components of FOIA VistA that vxVistA could address. It is not unreasonable to speculate that vxVistA could be the most technically advanced variant of VistA available under any license.
If they know what is good for them, Medsphere and ClearHealth will be paying careful attention. The moment this release is realized is not unreasonable to say that DSS is now the top company for open source VistA. They have more customers than either ClearHealth or Medsphere. They have extensive functionality in vxVistA that is not found in WebVistA (ClearHealth), OpenVistA (Medshere) or WorldVistA. DSS has a much deeper pool of VistA talent than any other single company that I know of. Do not get me wrong, Medsphere and ClearHealth have very experienced developers, but DSS has focused on MUMPS and VistA for years longer than either company has even been in existence.
It remains to be seen if DSS knows how to be an Open Source company. But they have always been straightforward, honest and open about their opinions and business strategies, and that is probably the most difficult lesson to learn. If they can create a community portal that can compete with Medsphere.org (which is the best community site in the health FOSS industry) there may be no stopping them.
This is a game-changing announcement. At least I will have some fresh material for my next “State of the Source” talk.
EPL is a solid license, approved by both the FSF and OSI. That makes it both “free” and “open source”. It is the license of choice for the OHT which will be hosting the code base. It is specifically designed to handle a project that has a FOSS core that will not be a threat to proprietary modules. Since DSS will be a hyrid proprietary/FOSS company for the foreseeable future, the reason for choosing the EPL should be obvious. So far, OHT has done little of substance, given the caliber of partners and resources that it has. Many of us have been wondering when OHT would do something significant.
The fact that DSS has chosen to release its code through OHT brings a new relevance to OHT. There should be no confusion however; OHT is relevant because it is working to release DSS code, not the other way around. The code that DSS is releasing has the potential to be vastly more valuable than anything OHT has even attempted.
I want to point out that the devil is in the details. I have been assured by DSS President Mark Byers that the release will be significant, but I am not enough of a VistA expert to be able to determine to what degree this is true, even when DSS clarifies what they are releasing. Because so much is available in FOIA VistA it might be difficult for a novice like myself to determine what the real value of DSS really is. Thankfully, the Hardhats community will quickly asses the value of the DSS release, and let MUMPS-outsiders like myself in on the evaluation in short order.
No matter what, this marks the entrance of DSS as a serious FOSS health IT vendor. To which I can only say “Welcome!”