Open Innovation Achieves when Traditional Procurement Fails to Deliver

Published Mar-23-14

The traditional procurement process failed to deliver an innovative, open source scheduling system, so the Department of Veterans Affairs turned to open innovation for the solution.

United States Department of Veterans Affairs, United Kingdom

The Story:

Open Innovation Achieves when Traditional Procurement Fails to Deliver In January 2014, the U.S. General Services Administration’s open innovation portal was recognized for the leading part it is playing in innovation. The website beat 600 applicants to win the latest innovations in government award, organised by The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. was launched in 2010 in partnership with Challenge Post to find novel solutions to government problems. Reportedly, it's been used by more than 50 federal agencies to crowdsource solutions to design, engineering, software and other challenges.

There are many standout examples of how the portal has been used successfully, and one of those is by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reversing Failure

In 2013, the department launched the VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest to develop an open source medical appointment scheduling solution that could integrate with its own electronic health record system. What prompted the launch of an OI contest was that a previous large-scale procurement to find a solution had failed.

By 2009, the then eight-year $167 million project hadn't developed a single scheduling capability that could be provided to the field, according to Dr. Michael Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration.

Open Innovation to the Rescue

Participants in the Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest were asked to deliver a breakthrough system with many requirements that went beyond traditional scheduling functionality. And they had to do so in a rapid time frame. Within only a few months they had to form teams, develop ideas, configure a test environment, integrate the solution and provide a demonstration.

A total of 41 teams registered to enter the six-month competition which was won by a collaboration between MedRed, BT and VISTA Expertise Network. They were awarded a $1.85 million prize for their Health eTime. This is a comprehensive system that advances scheduling capacities for all involved in veterans’ care.

The open source, medical scheduling software package is designed to integrate with the VA’s existing system and advances scheduling in key areas by:

• possessing the ability to schedule patients across VA sites
• moving beyond scheduling to managing the use of treatment rooms, equipment
and the deployment of staff.

Staggering Success

What the traditional procurement approach had failed to deliver in almost ten years of trying, open innovation achieved in a matter of months.

“VA leadership deserves all the credit in the world for harnessing open source transparency and industry innovation on behalf of patients,” said Dr. William Smith, Chairman and CEO of MedRed.

“The contest oriented many very talented companies to the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA) and its core IT challenges. I am sure the contest will continue to yield benefits to patient care well into the future.”

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