Veterans Administration Looking For Help In Creating a New System for Scheduling Appointments

Do you have a bright idea on how the Veterans Administration (VA) can improve its appointment scheduling and service to veterans?  If so, now is the time to share it.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is challenging software developers to create new systems that schedule appointments in the VA’s nationwide health system.

The contest marks a major change in direction by the VA, away from software that is so customized that only VA can use it, toward open standards and commercial systems that build on proven practices.  The competition is designed to encourage new ideas that will assure veterans get more personalized care.

Through a Medical Appointment Scheduling System (MASS) Contest, hosted on the site, VA will award as many as three prizes for the creation of an open-source and open application program interface (API)-based system to replace components of VA’s 25-year-old scheduling software in its VistA electronic health system.

The contest was formally announced in the Federal Register on Oct. 16, 2012.  Registration is due by May 13, 2013, and all entries must be finalized by June 13, 2013.

The MASS Contest is driven by VA’s decision to transition its VistA electronic health system into an openly architected product and to challenge developers to offer standards-based, modular components that can be extended and modified much more easily than customized products.  Proprietary, commercial systems are eligible for prizes, but all entries in the contest will be required to have open connections, or APIs.  Entries with substantial open source content will be especially welcomed.

The VA plans to announce winners on or about Sept. 30, 2013.

In order to be judged, contestants must contribute the open APIs and any open source content in their entries to the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent.  The VA will then use the results of the contest to design a final specification for an appointment scheduling system to be deployed nationally.

Information is available at the contest website.

About The Challenge
To encourage development of systems that help Veterans schedule appointments to receive care from the Veterans Health Administration and to reduce risks in the future procurement and deployment of those systems, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) announces a prize contest under Section 105 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011, Public Law 111-358 (2011), 15 USC 3719 (the “Act”).

The goal of this contest is to encourage creation of systems that help Veterans make appointments to receive outpatient and ambulatory care[1] from the Veterans Health Administration.  VA also seeks to obtain information which will allow it to reduce the risks inherent in procurement and deployment of a replacement medical scheduling product.

[1] Scheduling of inpatient, surgical, and extended nursing care is excluded.

Contest overview:

  1. Registration until 12:00 noon EDT May 13, 2013.  A contestant must register electronically via this website (see Rules).  Eligible contestants’ letter of registration letter is validated.  Eligible contestants are granted access to the virtual testing environment.
  2. Submission of entry until 12:00 noon EDT June 13, 2013  Entries are submitted electronically as specified under Rules.  Contestants, in order to be judged, will contribute the open APIs and any open source content in their entries to the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA).
  3. Judging
  4. Prizes awarded on or about September 30, 2013

VA uses the Medical Scheduling Package (MSP), a component in its VistA electronic health record (EHR) system, to bring patients, clinicians and other resources together so health care can be delivered.  The MSP also captures data that allows VA to measure, manage and improve access to care, quality of care, operating efficiency and operating and capital resources. 

VA currently relies on the MSP to perform non-scheduling functions including workload data capture and a broad range of workload and other management reports.

VA intends to replace the current MSP with a scheduling product[1] which is a standards-based, modular, extensible and scalable, certified as compliant and fully interoperable with the production version of VistA now held by the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA).

The replacement product must effectively perform VA’s scheduling-centric and scheduling-related legacy business functions. It must also demonstrate it can meet non-functional requirements including integration with multiple instances of VistA.[2]

[1] As used in this notice, “product” means either a discrete software module which is installed on VA servers or a software service.

[2] The replacement product will, as a part of the overall VistA EHR, deliver privacy, security, data integrity, patient accessibility, interoperability and other services required by federal law, regulations and VA policy.  Many of these services are delivered by other components of VistA.

The MSP is tightly integrated with VistA; it reads data from more than 130 other VistA applications and has read/write functionality with more than 30 additional applications.

VistA systems are localized at the hospital level and will remain so for at least the near-term future. Each hospital operates a separate instance of VistA. Portions of the VistA code are identical in each instance; different instances of VistA may have different interfaces between the MSP and other VistA applications.

Any replacement product must not negatively impact any current applications that interface with the MSP or its data.

Effect on Subsequent Procurement
VA anticipates that compatibility with Open Source VistA will be among the requirements in any subsequent procurement of a replacement for the MSP.  Demonstration of open source compatibility in this contest may be taken into consideration in the rating of proposals in any subsequent procurement.

OSEHRA’s Role in the Contest
As the custodial agent for an open source community of VistA developers and users, OSEHRA plays a central role in the distribution and certification of VistA and VistA-related software.  Members of the OSEHRA community, both individuals and organizations, may develop contest submissions, singly or in collaborative groups, and community members may choose to use OSEHRA facilities (such as code repositories or working groups) during the development process.  OSEHRA staff members will perform the first phase of contest entry evaluation and will have no affiliation with any contest submission.  No member of the OSEHRA staff will participate in any discussion, work, or project group where contest submissions are discussed.


Roger W. Baker, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs

Judging Criteria

Entrants’ test scripts and product demonstration
Open Source Compatibility
Non-Functional Requirements – Attachment C
Core Scheduling Requirements – Attachment A
Scheduling-related, VA-specific legacy requirements – Attachment B
Open Source Content

How to Enter

Contestants may register for the contest until 12:00 noon EDT on May 13, 2013.  Registered contestants must first send a letter (as an attachment through the website).  The letter must attest that the potential entrant (and partner organizations/individuals) are eligible to participate in this contest per the requirements of the Federal Register Notice of Oct. 16, 2012, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011.

Only registered contestants may submit entries.  Entries are transmitted electronically as set forth in Section 5 of the Rules.  Contest submissions will be accepted until 12:00 noon EDT on June 13, 2013.  Contestants, in order to be judged, must first contribute their interfaces with VistA to OSEHRA (FR Notice CONTEST REQUIREMENTS AND RULES, 3. Basis on which a winner will be selected, 2.e. “Note: Entries that consist of proprietary code are not precluded, so long as interfaces with VistA use open APIs and the software implementing the interfaces in made available as open source”).  Also see Sections 4 and 5 of the Rules for specific requirements.

Winners will be announced on or about September 30, 2013. 

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