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VISTA is a comprehensive medical software suite for facilities of any scale: from a physician's office to a clinic, from a single hospital to a large hospital group. There are more than a hundred modules available to automate every conceivable aspect of a medical facility. Typical implementation begins with patient information management and progresses to service areas like labs and pharmacy. Specialty clinics and other areas follow leading to adoption of the physician's interface, CPRS, regarded by many as the jewel of the system. Modules for administrative and ancillary areas usually follow CPRS.

The VISTA culture turns development on its head by putting users in control of system analysis and design

VISTA was first developed in the late 1970s at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, (it has no connection with Microsoft's Windows operating system, which used the name Vista for its former version). The acronym VISTA stands for Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture. We use VISTA to describe both the core software platform and its close relatives including the variants known as CHCS and RPMS.

As a suite of software for automating medical facilities, VISTA is unmatched in comprehensiveness and scale, but it is the approach and methodology behind VISTA that lies behind the most remarkable results. The VISTA culture turns development on its head by putting users in control of system analysis and design. This produces software tailored sensitively to the needs of those who actually use it. It places emphasis on what users consider important and empowers healthcare professionals to drive development schedules and priorities. The results of this approach have been astounding, leading to improvements saving countless lives and dollars.

Besides its excellence in supporting the complex demands of medical science, VISTA has another great advantage over other electronic healthcare approaches: it is free. As information technology created by the U.S. government, VISTA is available to anyone under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The software has been further adapted for use outside the Department of Veterans Affairs in versions such as WorldVistA EHR (which is also available free and open-source). VISTA Expertise Network assists adopters in implementing these changes and making customizations to fit the system perfectly to their own needs. Not paying exorbitant licensing fees (hundreds of thousands of dollars for clinics, millions for hospitals) leaves medical providers free to spend their money on more important things, like improving patient care.

Some of VISTA's strengths:

For a detailed history of VISTA and its development see the Wikipedia VISTA article or the excellent Hardhats page. Also available is a memo written in 1981 by Marty Johnson (84 KB PDF), one of the fathers of VISTA, that summarizes the history of VISTA's creation.