Develop an open source scheduling system for VA and win $3 million


Contest is to replace 25-year-old patient appointment software.

On Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs Department launched a contest with $3 million in prizes for development of a new patient scheduling system based on open source software. The new system will replace 25-year-old technology.

In March 2009, after spending $167 million over eight years with no viable software to show for it, VA cancelled its previous replacement system for scheduling new patients.  The department tacitly acknowledged the debacle today when it said the contest “will allow it to reduce the risks inherent in procurement and deployment of a replacement medical scheduling product.”

VA said it will use the contest to encourage software developers to build a new system based on its open source Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, known as VistA.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said “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. The competition will help us serve veterans by encouraging ideas to provide more personalized care.”

Roger Baker, VA’s chief information officer, said “for the last 18 months, we have been working with the open source community to support this change in direction.”

VA is running the contest on the website, with entries due by June 13. Up to three winners will be announced on Sept. 30.

(Image via JohnKwan/