Just think how many phone calls and emails that could save the VA. Dare I say patients would be happier? Staff no longer needed to schedule all those appointments by phone could be put to far better use in delivering care.
By structuring this as a contest, the VA avoided the usual soul-crushing process of issuing a request for proposal (RFP), usually the start of a mind-numbing blizzard of bureaucracy that, too often, lead to Web sites such as healthcare.gov.
The price to the U.S. taxpayer for all this scheduling goodness came out to a bit more than $3 million, which also includes three other top winning entries. In return for the cash, the teams delivered their source code to OSEHRA, the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent, which publishes the VistA code under an open source license.
The VA hopes to implement an updated scheduling system based on this winning code within 18 months, starting with a pilot at a smaller hospital, says Michael L. Davies MD, national director of systems redesign at the VA.
"Integrating with VistA is not a chip shot," Davies says. "It's hard, in part, because industry has to understand what the [scheduling] problem is. The other piece of it is that not all of our VistA code is documented in a way that allows industry to come in and just plug into it."