VISTA Enterprise Network - Successful Implementation, World Class Support

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meaningful Use certification at Oroville Hospital

A local news piece on our friends at Oroville Hospital, with Dr. Narinder Singh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carol Monahan: Introducing Myself

As the new director of support at the VISTA Expertise Network, I have had the opportunity to spend the last few months learning about the VISTA community. I was delighted to meet so many dedicated people at the recent VISTA Expo & Symposium, and I want to thank everyone who participated in our session on open-source licensing.

I have a decidedly eclectic background, including a grounding in computer science, with extensive managerial experience in sales, logistics and ERP planning, while working at Wizards of the Coast. On a lighter note, my first job was as an assistant to a couple of large- and small-animal veterinarians in Ireland, and I have also worked as a Tiffany salesperson, and a "spokesmodel", meaning that I got to hand out ham samples at a trade-show. Generally speaking, I enjoy a challenge.

I'm looking forward to promoting community licensing solutions and codebase reunification, as well as getting to know more of the excellent VISTA Hardhats.

More About Us

Here is some additional information about VISTA, the VISTA Expertise Network, and our goals and approach. If you're visiting us for the first time, please also read the "About Us" tab.


The VISTA Expertise Network was set up to promote the use of open-source VISTA software. VISTA is more than just an electronic health record (EHR). It is an entire suite of fully-integrated clinical support programs, built on a powerful database engine designed from the ground up to support the practice of medicine. VISTA was created over the course of three and a half decades within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and a close cousin is in use within the Indian Health Service (IHS). An adaptation of an earlier version is also being used by the Department of Defense (DOD). It has been successfully adapted for use outside of governmental systems, using an open-source approach to build on the public-domain codebase supplied by VA, under the Freedom of Information Act.

Until fairly recently, VISTA development was driven by the direct involvement of VA clinicians, using an agile, adaptive process. Unfortunately, a drive toward homogenization and centralization has led to a severe slowdown in innovation within VA. Facilities using VISTA outside VA have been hampered by having no communication back into the VA system, meaning that VA updates and upgrades—although welcome—are developed with no consideration for non-VA users. VA has also suffered from diminished direct user feedback in their development cycle.

During the last decade, the bureaucracy’s response to this “death of innovation” has been to pursue a wholesale replacement of VISTA, which has been branded as a “legacy” system, implying that it is outdated—even though it still supports a higher quality of care than any newer system has been able to demonstrate. This has lead to a series of very expensive, failed initiatives. Fortunately, this year, VA is experimenting with a new approach—setting up a custodial agent (OSEHRA) and working to create an open-source development ecosystem where outside contributions can make their way back into VA, IHS, and DOD systems, and variations within those systems can be shared to create an even richer pool of options for all VISTA systems. On the downside, some VA and DOD managers involved with the project still seem to hope that this will result in a wholesale replacement of their systems with “plug and play”, “modular” software.

Our Goal:

The VISTA Expertise Network believes that VISTA can continue to evolve and adapt, building on its track record of proven success. To that end, we have dedicated ourselves to both promoting adoption of the software and training a new generation of programmers and users.

Our Approach:

There is a pressing need for EHR software among underfunded rural hospitals. New legislation dictates that hospitals that cannot show Meaningful Use of their EHR will begin seeing reductions in Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) reimbursements beginning in 2015. These hospitals could receive ARRA funding toward purchase of EHR software during the next few years, but many do not have sufficient capital on hand to get the process going, leaving them unable to qualify for assistance, and facing penalties all too soon.

VISTA, as open-source software, can save these hospitals the large licensing fees associated with most commercial hospital software. It does, though, still require configuration, customization, and training of both IT staff and end users. VISTA Expertise Network recruits and manages the experts necessary for both installation and training.

One criticism that is leveled at VISTA is that it is “old fashioned,” since many functions within the system still rely on text-only user interfaces. The VISTA Expertise Network has collaborated with Dr. Rob Tweed of M/Gateway in launching the development of a new generation of user interface for VISTA, using Enterprise Web Developer (EWD) software. The new interfaces are device-independent, allowing them to run on anything from a PC to an iPad to an Android phone. The underlying system is unaffected, but the user experience is brought right up to date. The VISTA Expertise Network is promoting training of programmers and adoption of the new interfaces.

The VISTA Expertise Network is committed to creating the best training materials and courses to prepare programmers and users to gain the full benefits of VISTA. With our emphasis on promoting projects at hospitals and clinics in underdeveloped rural areas, we have the opportunity to create skilled jobs (and the skilled workers to fill them) right where they are needed the most.

2012 VISTA Expo & Symposium, 11-14 September, Where?

Now that the 2011 VISTA Expo and Symposium has concluded, we are hard at work on planning the next conference. We have tentatively selected September 11-14, 2012 for the next VISTA Expo and Symposium. Our next task is to choose a location.

The Marriott in Redmond was wonderful, and we are in conversations with them about using them again. However, we are strongly considering making the VISTA Expo and Symposium a moving conference, holding it in a different place every year. To that end, we have identified two other possible cities for 2012.

One possibility is Reno/Sparks, Nevada. It has the advantage of being close to Oroville Hospital, one of VISTA’s early Meaningful Use success stories. It also provides an opportunity for a couple of days’ vacation, if people would like to come a little early or stay a little late.

Another possibility is Albuquerque, New Mexico. Its principal advantage is that it would make things easier for our friends in Indian Health Services, so that more of them might be able to attend. And Albuquerque is also a lovely place for a few extra days.

We are getting opinions and feedback from a variety of sources, and we are interested to know what the hardhats think. Redmond, Reno, or Albuquerque? Which would you prefer for the 2012 expo?

Monday, December 12, 2011

24th VISTA Community Meeting

WorldVistA is holding its twenty-fourth VISTA Community Meeting Friday through Sunday, 13-15 January 2012 at the University of California, Davis, in Sacramento. Owen Hermsen, Chris Richardson, Larry Landis, David Wicksell, George Lilly, and I (and possibly another Network staff member to be named later) will all be attending. We look forward to seeing you there. We all have a lot to talk about and plans to make together.

Since the conference is just a month out, this is a good time to make your travel plans while flights are still cheap. Head on over to the WorldVistA website for details and registration.