The Researcher's Guide to VA Data

VA Information Resource Center



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The Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) is an integrated system of both nationally mandated and locally adapted software applications that directly support patient care at VHA facilities. The electronic health records (EHRs) for VA patients are in the VistA files.

A key component of VistA is the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS). CPRS is a graphical user interface that presents VistA data in an manner that resembles a patient’s paper chart. CPRS enables clinicians to review and enter patient information. It includes modules that support clinical decision making and allow tracking of panels of patients. All VA Medical Centers have been using CPRS since 1997.

VistA Data

VistA data are comprised of individual patient records. Vista is the source data for many VA corporate databases commonly used by researchers, including the National Patient Care Database (NPCD), Decision Support System (DSS), the VA Central Cancer Registry, and the Corporate Data Warehouse (CDW).

For studies that require patient information from the EHR that is not available in national databases, individual records can be viewed directly. Researchers view the EHR through the CPRS, VistAWeb, or the Compensation & Pension Record Interchange (CAPRI) application.

VistA data are extracted to VA Integrated Service Network (VISN) data warehouses. The availability of these data varies by VISN.

VistA Data Access

The process for requesting access depends on how the data will be used. VIReC provides data access information through our collaboration on the VHA Data Portal Intranet site, including details on accessing CPRS, VistAWeb, and CAPRI by for the following data use categories:

  • Research
  • Preparatory to Research
  • Operations

The Data Access section of the Portal is available to researchers with VA network access by copying and pasting the following URL into the browser:

Documentation & Resources

  • VIReC Resource Guide: VistA describes VistA’s origins, structure, content and utility.

  • The VA Software Document Library provides information about VistA software applications.

  • Topics covered in the VistA-HealtheVet Monograph include Health Data Systems; Registration, Enrollment, and Eligibility Systems; common services; and Management and Financial Systems

  • Additional VistA resources are available from this section of VIReC’s Intranet site. Researchers with VA network access can view these resources by copying and pasting the following URL into the browser: