DHCP and

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It all started...


What is M?

Foundation & Framework

How do I get the Software?

It all started...

Over thirty years ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) set about on an epic journey with the launch of a mammoth effort to automate their 170+ medical centers. They chose the ANSI MUMPS computer language as their foundation and erected a framework to support their applications. Originally called DHCP, VISTA is well suited for use outside of the DVA and healthcare, a very well kept secret indeed.

At its very core you have all the tools and materials you need to build an economical, efficient, scaleable and integrated computer system. If you swing the boom a little wider, you find that VISTA also contains a staggering number of hospital applications that all share a common set of files for patients, providers, users, etc. Add to this combination low-cost availability under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) and you have a compelling argument for adoption. It sounds too good to be true, except for perhaps one thing. Where will you get support?

Help is just a click away...
The volunteers who erected this site believe in VISTA and they want you to have the chance to give it fair consideration. To do this, you need assistance and who better to advise you than others who have already constructed their systems using VISTA. But how will you contact these pioneers?


To join the community, visit this site often and subscribe to the free electronic mailing list. Share your experiences and ideas with like-minded professionals.

This site, itself almost 20 years old, depends on your feedback. You need to tell us what will help you support your current VISTA system or make the decision to adopt it. Whether you are an experienced VISTA user looking to exchange ideas or are just now considering it, this site is for you.

Throughout its history, the DVA's DHCP (Decentralized Hospital Computer Program), now called VISTA (Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture), has kept the same goal: Increase the quality of healthcare while keeping system life-cycle costs under control. A critical decision was made with the adoption of the M computer language as the foundation of DHCP. Not without controversy, this strategic decision has been proven over the years to have been a wise one.

What is M?
M is an alternative name for MUMPS, an ANSI computer language, database and operating system all rolled into one. Early M implementations were generally closed systems that required programmers to build their own tools and application frameworks from scratch. Keeping this early environment in mind will help explain the nature of the VISTA architecture.

Foundation & Framework
Using the flexibility and power of M, the DVA constructed a generic, highly portable foundation and framework with FileMan and Kernel. The DHCP designers crafted the architecture in interlocking layers.

  • M Technology - The M language and database.
  • FileMan - Database management written in M
  • Kernel - Application framework, based on M and FileMan, providing services such as menus, device selection, background task scheduling, etc.
  • Application - End-user software. VISTA supports the development of these applications by providing a framework of Kernel, Fileman and M (MUMPS).

System Layers

VISTA is supported by Standards and Conventions that enforce the architecture shown in the above diagram. These standards are worthwhile for any MUMPS programmer to study, but they are required reading for adopters of VISTA/DHCP.

How do I get the software?
The DVA's VISTA software and documentation is available under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). Here is how to download VistA.

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