The world of electronic health records (EHRs) is going to be rocked next month as the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHRA) holds its third annual summit in Bethesda, Maryland. After four years of quietly building a organization to promote VistA and open source in healthcare, as well as a central host for the core VistA code, OSEHRA is now emerging as a major force in the world of EHRs. The conference has become a gathering place for not just the VistA community but for major health IT players in the federal government, including the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Indian Health Service (IHS), and major forces in the open health field. The three-day conference will feature more than 120 speakers addressing 90 separate sessions.
The conference has expanded from last year's conference with joint sessions with the VistA Expertise Network (VEN), and a half-day session where senior people from the VA will discuss their VistA Evolution plans.
The VistA Expertise Network (VEN) hosts the annual VISTAExpo in Seattle in October has decided to join forces this year with OSEHRA as detailed here, and lead a special half-day "Town Hall" on “The Future of VistA” instead of hosting their regular conference.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be playing a major role at the conference with more than 20 speakers, including its top IT leadership, addressing multiple sessions. On the third day of the conference, the VA will hold a full half-day session on the VA's plan for the next generation of VistA, VistA Evolution with a substantial amount of time allotted to discussion and interaction with the audience.
Last, but not least, a large amount of solution providers have stepped up to the plate to sponsor the conference and hold exhibits. This is critical as one of the major factors holding back VistA adoption in the private sector in the US is the perceived lack of VistA vendors. The OSEHRA conference will show a thriving and growing solution provider community.
The OSEHRA Summit is is the most extensive conference on the role of open source in electronic health records systems, and health IT in general, held to date. It is a powerful counterpoint to the annual HIMSS conference which focuses on proprietary/lock-in EHRs and lock-in health IT technologies. We believe this event is going to represent a watershed moment in the transition from closed technologies in healthcare to open and innovative solutions in health IT as well as interoperability, collaboration, and transparency.
The OSEHRA Open Source Summit on Global Collaboration in Healthcare IT will be take place on September 3 – 5, 2014, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center outside Washington D.C. Conference organizer, the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHRA), was created by the VA to serve as a intermediary between the VA and the open source VistA community. It's key role is to help both the VA and the VistA community to work together in the rapid innovation of VistA, widely considered the world's best hospital-based EHR. In its short existence, OSEHRA has emerged as a leader in the advancement of open source electronic health record (EHR) software and related health information technology. OSEHRA is using the conference to bring together the best and brightest from healthcare and various major open source initiatives including the VistA and RPMS EHRs.
Below we will review some of the key elements of the conference.
Keynote speakers this include:
The conference agenda is divided into three days and addresses the following themes:
Day 1: Open Source Principles and Practices
The first day of the conference is going to be a busy day and will focus primarily on open source principles, practices, business models, and collaboration models. At the same time, as noted above, Rick Marshall from the VistA Expertise Network will be leading a Town Hall meeting on "The Future of VistA." The open source sections will be a "nuts and bolts" set of sessions on how open source works. The early afternoon sessions address Imaging, Open Source Usability, Open Source Business, and VistA Tools and Technologies.
The late afternoon sessions promises to be really interesting. The "Industry Activities" track will address open source business models as well as success stories of hospitals that have implemented VistA.
The first session will feature iCare talking about VistA as a Software as a Service solution (SaaS). For the past couple of years iCare has been working on reverse engineering VistA's GUI, called CPRS, to migrate it to HTML5 from its current Delphi code. They have been successful and now they have a version of VistA that can be hosted in the cloud. Oroville Hospital, which successfully self-implemented VistA for less than $8 million and has been adding extraordinary enhancements to the EHR, will be presenting the user case. North Carolina's Central Regional Hospital will be giving a presentation on their VistA implementation, detailed in this article, which resulted in a fully functional EHR, customized for their needs, for less than one million dollars. That compares rather well with other health systems in North Carolina that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in Epic Systems implementations and encountering all kinds of problems. There will also be a presentation on Brooklyn's Lutheran Medical Center VistA implementation,
DSS, Inc., and Medsphere Systems Corporation, both solution providers with a great depth of VistA implementation experiences will be presenting the Direct/Integrator approach. DSS is currently playing a key role in the implementation of VistA across all mental health facilities in the State of New York. As detailed in this article, at 23 hospitals and more than 300 medical facilities, this is one of the largest and most complex EHR implementations in the world today. Edmund Billings will be giving a presentation on Medsphere's OpenVistA deployments. Billings, Medsphere's Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has become a thought leader in the health IT field and regularly posts articles in Open Health News.
Day 2 - The Power of Open Source Collaboration
The morning session for Thursday, September 4th will focus on the role of open source as an engine of innovation in health IT. The session has an unusual format.
It starts with the "Welcome and Introduction" by Seong Ki Mun, Ph.D., President & CEO, of OSEHRA and LT. General (ret.) James B. Peake, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Directors of OSEHRA, and former Secretary of the VA from 2007 to 2009.
That will be followed by the keynote speaker section chaired by Andrew Aitken from Black Duck Software/the Olliance Group and best known as the organizer of the Open Source Think Tank conferences. Keynote speakers, as noted above, will be Jim Whitehurst from Red Hat, Doug Fridsma, from ONC, Maryland State Delegate, Dan Morhaim, and VA CIO Stephen W. Warren.
The formal presentation will be followed by Mike O'Neill and will be an open panel discussion with the audience. That open discussion will last until lunch where several tables will be set aside so that participants can discuss topics of interest. This special part of the program requires registration through Desereé Johnston, the 2014 OSEHRA Open Source Summit Coordinator. This highly-unusual arrangements will allow for extensive discussion and direct personal interaction with the keynote speakers and OSEHRA board members.
The afternoon session on Thursday, as well as the morning session on Friday, will be breakout sessions. These were a very successful part of the last year's 2013 OSEHRA Open Source Summit, where there were more than 100 presentations during the breakout session, covering topics in policy, technology, clinical applications, business models, and others.
As part of the program on the second day, the winners of OSEHRA's new Academic Abstract Competition will give their presentation. Through this competition, OSEHRA offered college students the opportunity to win a trip to the Summit, all expenses paid, and present their winning abstract at the Summit. The winners were Nadege Willis and Sandhya Singh from the State University of New York at Albany. The topic of their presentation will be "The Verve Project: Open Source Vitals Monitoring." Note that SUNY Albany has created a VistA EHR Studies Program, the first in the nation to provide their students with a comprehensive education in the open source EHR. The course is taught by the well-known writer and open health expert, Luis Ibáñez.
Day 3 - VistA Evolution: Blueprint for Innovation
Friday morning is packed with presentations. Too many to discuss here, but I would like to point to the panel on "User Experience." This panel is chaired by Aaron Drew, Ph.D., Chief Engineer & Technical Director of the VistA Evolution Program. Usability is one of VistA's greatest strengths. While proprietary EHRs are severely deficient when it comes to usability and interoperability, the VistA EHR is repeatedly ranked as #1. This is not a minor issue as discussed in this article. The panel will include Chris Goranson, from the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping, as well as several usability experts.
The Friday afternoon session is dedicated to a presentation of VistA Evolution - the program to modernize VistA to enhance its interoperability, usability, and functionality. This will be followed by a panel discussion. VA leaders will discus their strategy, progress, and plans, especially involving the open source community. The purpose of the panel is "to provide an update on the status of VistA Evolution, the program that focuses on the modernization of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair’s health information system, and the direction it is going."
The VistA modernization program is a top priority for the US Congress, which wants to solve the huge backlog of veterans wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a total of nearly two million US combat casualties. These wounded vets have been discharged from the US military and currently have to wait months, in some cases years, to enter the VA medical system. The key to solving this problem is ensure the electronic health record systems (EHRs) of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA are interoperable. That way wounded soldiers will no longer have to carry boxes of printed medical and service records produced by DoD to the VA where staff have to spend months reviewing these paper records before they can qualify wounded veterans for admission into the VA medical system.
Speakers and panel members include:
A remarkable development for this conference is that several VistA EHR solution providers stepped up to the plate to sponsor the conference. One of the great challenges faced by those in the private sector who want to implement VistA is to find those companies that can implement the system and support it. The VistA EHR community has suffered from a fairly common open source misconception..."build it and they will come." Well, that idea does not work in the healthcare system. People's lives are on the line when it comes to EHRs, so hospitals seeking to implement VistA want to know who they can contract with. By sponsoring the conference, leading VistA EHR solution providers are thus stepping forward in a public way. This press release from OSEHRA lists the sponsors and their background. The list includes:
According to OSEHRA VP Don Hewitt, there are a few sponsorship slots available. He said that for information on sponsorship and exhibits, one can review the Sponsor / Exhibitor Prospectus or contact: <email@example.com>.
Below is a complete list of speakers at the conference as of 8/13/2014. We will continue to update this speaker list as the agenda for the conference is finalized.
[Last updated 9/16/2014] Added two sponsors and several additional speakers.