VISTA Expo 2011: Organizers Issue Call for Papers

Roger A. Maduro The much anticipated VISTAExpo & Symposium 2011 conference has just issued a call for papers as well as trainers for their educational tracks and tutorial sessions. VISTAExpo 2011 is a four-day conference for activists and members of the VistA ecosystem, current users as well as potential adopters. It will be held from November 17-20 in Redmond, Washington. Papers and presentations are due by September 15.

The conference organizers are looking for presenters on topics related to one of their four tracks as well as experienced VistA trainers to give tutorials for a large number of VistA “newbies” and potential users who are expected to attend. VISTAExpo is being organized primarily by the VISTA Expertise Network.

The four primary tracks will be:

1. What’s New in VistA?: This track is focused on presentations on the latest developments to VistA including major news, code enhancements, and implementations. This track will have a combination of formal presentations and opportunities for community members to talk about their projects informally as part of “show and tell” sessions. This track will also allow for impromptu discussions and perhaps even some collaborative hackathons.

2. What’s Next in VistA?: 2011 has been a game-changing year for VistA. Presentations in this track will review some of the monumental developments that have taken place with VistA in the past year. These will include presentations ranging from the creation and role of the VistA 'Custodial Agent' organization to the achievement of 'Meaningful Use' certification by a large number of VistA variants. In addition, many of the sessions will be reserved for discussions pertaining to the future of VistA, from a full range of theoretical to practical standpoints, to make it the leading EHR for hospitals around the world.

3. Implementation Lessons: VistA has been implemented in more than 1,000 locations around the world in sites ranging in size and scope from doctor's offices, clinics, and hospitals, to entire countries. The pace of implementation is picking up rapidly. This track will focus on the factors that have led to successful implementations as well as the factors that have led to failures.

It is well known that EHR implementations are challenging and many of them, in particular implementations of closed-source EHRs, have ended in failure. Unlike the organizers of Health IT conferences that feature pharaonic exhibits, beautiful marketing materials, and feel-good stories that seem to gloss over uncomfortable shortcomings and failures, the organizers of VISTAExpo 2011 intend to present a full, honest picture of what it takes to succeed. Thus, in addition to presentations on the success stories, this track will provide an opportunity for VistA professionals and solution providers to learn from each other’s mistakes. Conference organizers have made a point that one learns more from failure than from success.

Presentations for this track should include a summary of lessons learned, and if possible, how those lessons led to subsequent successes. The organizers recognize that solution providers may be hesitant to talk about their failures, so they have established a special reward for those with the courage to present “an autopsy.”

4. VistA Adopter Reports: With more than 1,000 VistA implementations across the world there are now a large number of VistA “user” stories. The conference has created a track specifically dedicated to VistA adopter stories. As stated in a conference announcement: “[w]hether your facility is large or small; whether your VISTA system is mature and up-to-date or in the design phase, we want to hear your story.”

In addition to presenters, the VISTAExpo 2011 organizers are looking for trainers to “lead seminars for beginning users, Clinical Application Coordinators (CACs), and programmers.” The training seminars are scheduled to last for 90 minutes including question and answer periods.

While VISTAExpo 2011  is shaping up to be a major conference for VistA, we hope that the organizers of the conference will transcend the traditional “VistA-only” focus of VistA meetings and broaden the participation to the entire open health community. A fifth track for other open source solutions, from other open source EHRs such as OpenEMR, ClearHealth, Tolven and OpenMRS, to interface engines such as Mirth and Misys Connect, as well as imaging solutions such as VTK, would be of great benefit to the entire community and would demonstrate the possibilities of how VistA can expand together with the rest of the open health community.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from other open health efforts. For example, the OpenEMR community overcame severe fragmentation in their community to work together in order to achieve full 'Meaningful Use' certification. As detailed in this article, the OpenEMR community created a “Custodial Agent” organization and managed to pull all their efforts together. This is a positive example for the VistA community, which is as fragmented today as the OpenEMR community was a year ago.

For more information about the conference, go here.