New School News

Parsons’ Research and Development Lab Helps Win VA Challenge

Currently, the Veterans Health Administration uses a 25-year old software system to schedule and manage patients’ medical appointments.  That’s nearly as old as the original Nintendo Game Boy (circa 1989).  It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that despite years’ worth of Band-Aiding problems and a hefty investment in the relic, the VA eventually started casting it eyes about for a technological overhaul.

That’s where the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping (PIIM) stepped in. The research and development lab was part of a team that recently won third place in a contest by designing an open-sourced software that streamlines the appointment making process for the millions of veterans who visit VA hospitals and clinics each year.

Contest submissions were open-sourced, meaning the software is pliable to adaptation by multiple computer coders and engineers, immediately caught the attention of PIIM director Chris Goranson. “We were looking for ways to be a part of the movement of contributive knowledge,” Goranson said. “Not only in terms of challenging the members of our team to create a system that can be adaptive for years down the line, but also in working with a collaborative team across industries.”

That team consisted of 12 organizations, such as Red Hat, CollabNet and HP, who worked together over the course of three months under the umbrella name HP Open Community Team. Their final submission drastically simplified the electronic interface to minimize user confusion, while also making it possible to arrange multiple appointments across VA facilities, the lack of which had proved a serious inconvenience in the old system. The HP Open Community Team’s design is one of three winning submissions the VA will later use in some capacity to update their medical scheduling system.

The open-source platform wasn’t the only aspect of the contest that attracted PIIM’s participation. At the outset, members of the HP Open Community Team had decided that should they win, all of the prize money would go to help a number of veteran’s organizations, thereby giving back twofold to this community. The sum is quite hefty, too: the 12 members of the HP Open Community Team just recently decided which organizations will receive portions of their $495,000 winnings. The list is as follows:

$325,000 – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
$150,000 – Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
$10,000 – Fischer House
$10,000 – Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)

Read more about HP Open Community Team here. 

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