The Veterans Affairs Department kicked off a project last Friday to modernize its decades-old electronic health record system with an open-source model that it said will benefit both VA and private healthcare providers.

Industry sources said the collaborative approach toward development of the new Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture — VistA — also could spur development of a new single electronic health record to serve both VA and the Defense Department. Roger Baker, VA's chief information officer, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee last Thursday he expects the two departments to reach an agreement on a single electronic health record within two months.

In its request for information, VA said the first stage in its project is development of an open-source ecosystem, guided by a governing body called the custodial agent, which it said will most likely be a vendor.