Summary of The OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference 2021


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It’s already a tradition. Every year, when December is near, a special time comes. A time of sharing and inspiring. A time of knowledge and ideas. A time of the OpenMRS community. 

OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference is an annual event participated by implementers, supporters, donors and volunteers from all over the world. Before the pandemic it was held each year in a different place. COVID-19 came and changed our lives, forcing us to adapt. OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference, and many other events of this kind, had to switch their shape and form, entering the era of online meetings.

Our methods of assembling might have changed, but our genuine passion for coming together and discussing new projects and new ideas is as deep and strong as ever. This year the conference was held for the 15th time, and for the 15th time it gathered people from all over the world, joining us to help create this event. Each participant had a voice in the process of shaping our topics and discussions. The unconferencing format of the event enabled our guests to be directly involved in determining the focus of sessions. Their active participation and unextinguished eagerness to listen, learn and share, makes every OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference a truly enriching experience. This year was not an exception!

Partners in Health (PIH), Johnson & Johnson, MEKOM Solutions, AMPATH, SolDevelo, Thoughtworks, CDC, HealthIT, IntelliSOFT Consulting Ltd, Jembi Health System, Regenstrief Institute, UNICEF, Google and many more showed up to participate in this special event. 

The conference was held on Zoom and lasted for 4 days, from 29th November to 2nd December. During this time a variety of sessions took place, welcoming every person that wished to join and listen. 

During a short interactive introduction participants shared a great deal of various interests regarding the conference’s theme. Three topics were chosen as the main objectives of 2021 OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference:

  • Building Shared OpenMRS Assets
  • Assuring the Quality of OpenMRS Products
  • Determining Implementation Strategies for OpenMRS 3.0

Opening Ceremony

The 2021 OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference officially started with an opening ceremony. The board of directors gave participants a warm welcome, and expressed pride and gratitude for the amazing community of OpenMRS. 

As Jan Flowers, chair of the board of directors, said:

“Today, when we’re talking about quality and resilience, we’re really talking about trust. Trust in OpenMRS. It goes beyond the quality of the software, it includes the quality of the community that creates the software.”

The directors reflected on the long journey of hard work that brought us all to this point. Tom Oluoch spoke of a challenge of creating solutions that match the needs of local communities. Chris Bailley also shared his thoughts, giving a beautiful speech on the idea of unconferencing, as the one of expressing our interests and needs in a community that is truly open to listen to our story. A community that will not impose its own narrative. Instead, it will encourage us to create it from scratch, in harmony with our local capabilities.

With these wise and inspiring words, the conference was ready to begin.

Lightning Talks

One of the most exciting moments of OpenMRS Conferences are lightning talks. A lightning talk is a very short (5 minute maximum, strictly enforced) presentation. The idea behind this session is to share our projects, thoughts and stories in a quick, but interesting way. During lightning talks we get to know each other’s work and point of view, which is important for our community, because it helps us to stay connected to each other.

A lot of participants prepared their short presentations. The topics that were touched on included: 

  • Application of ML in HIV Testing Case Finding
  • Integrating OpenMRS with a Facility Registry
  • Data Science for Decision Support in the HIV Care Cascade
  • Introduction to the Linux Foundation and Open Source Public Health
  • Research Project Update: Analysis Progress – Interviews with OpenMRS Implementers’
  • Unicode CLDR: Make the Internet Work in Your Language
  • Connect for Life
  • Idea: Creating OMRS Evaluation Toolkits?
  • Standardization of Key Variables Across Systems – Key to Interoperability in HIS Space
  • Ozone HIS – The Enterprise-grade Health Information System Built with OpenMRS 3
  • Tracking COVID-19 Vaccination and Infection Among PLHIVs Using KenyaEMR

You can watch the lightning talks performances here: 

Round 1Round 2

Implementer Showcase

The Implementer Showcase included 5-10 minute show & tell presentations that focused on 1 or 2 of the community’s most significant achievements and top three priorities for 2022. There were also some 10 minutes time slots set aside for showcases on specific themes, such as data exchange, user experience, implementation strategies, and professional capacity development.

Sessions that took place during the implementer showcase:

  • Overview: Updating Your OpenMRS Frontend
  • 3.0 Implementer Tooling Showcase/Demo
  • 3.0 Implementer Experiences

Important topics that were discussed are Design Driven: OpenMRS 3.x and OHRI Design & Demo. During the showcase, detailed information on OpenMRS 3.0 and OHRI design process, framework and frontend were disclosed. The participants talked about the Carbon Design System and the tools they used while working on the projects. They also shared their experiences of being a part of a user-driven development process.

Unconference Sessions

The big part of OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference are, of course, unconference sessions in which our participants can dive into a challenge, topic or project they’re most passionate about and explore it together. Needs and interests of people are crucial in the process of selecting topics that will be discussed. In order to choose the most anticipated presentations, on the first day of the event participants could vote for their favorites. The outcome of voting shaped the rest of the conference, giving a voice to those, whom people wanted to listen to the most.

Here are a few of the topics discussed during this year’s unconference sessions:

  • Interoperability & FHIR
  • Deciding on OpenMRS Packaging Conventions
  • OpenMRS Academy Sustainability Strategy
  • OCL, OMRS Concept Dictionary as FHIR Terminology Service
  • OpenMRS & OpenHIE: FHIR Roadmap, FHIR IGs, & QA
  • COVID Package: Vaccinations, Digital Vaccine Certifications, Integrations
  • Connect for Life Distribution
  • 3.x Integrations: Ozone HIS, OpenELIS 2.x Update
  • OMRS Evaluation
  • How to implement 3.x in Your Implementation / Distro
  • Promoting Collaboration Among Countries & Organizations: How to Attract Technical Expertise and Properly Resource Our Community Teams Working on Shared Assets?
  • Forms: How to Handle Forms with 3.x/HTML form Entry Use
  • Bahmni@next: Joining 3.x Initiative
  • Women’s Health (Including Labor & Delivery)
  • OpenMRS 3.0 Development: Getting Ready for the Hackathon

You can read summaries of the most interesting sessions in this article.

A full summary of The OpenMRS Implementers’ Conference

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