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VA Launches Challenge.gov Contest for Scheduling Appointments

The Department of Veterans Affairs is challenging software developers to create new systems that schedule appointments in VA’s nationwide health system.

“This contest marks a major change in direction by 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,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The competition will help us serve Veterans by encouraging ideas to provide more personalized care.”

Through a Medical Appointment Scheduling System (MASS) Contest, hosted on the site Challenge.gov, 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.

“For the last 18 months, we have been working with the open source community to support this change in direction. Today we announce yet another project supported by that community,” said Roger Baker, VA assistant secretary for information technology.

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.

VA plans to announce winners on or about Sept. 30, 2013. 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. VA will use the results of the contest to design final specification for an appointment scheduling system to be deployed nationally.

Information is available at the contest website. www.vascheduling.challenge.gov

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