Oroville Hospital Named One of the Winners of the VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest

Press Release | Oroville Hospital | October 4, 2013

Regional hospital in Northern California is one of the three winners of the innovative challenge issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help develop the next generation medical scheduling program for the award-winning VistA EHR

Oroville, CA –October 4th, 2013—Oroville Hospital was named one of the three winners of the innovation challenge issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help the agency develop a new medical appointment scheduling application for its award-winning Electronic Health Record (EHR), VistA. Oroville was declared a winner based on the open source, web-based scheduling program it is currently developing and testing at its medical facilities in Oroville, California. The VA Scheduling Team awarded Oroville Hospital a $705,000 prize for winning second place in the contest. Oroville's program was one of 41 entries into the challenge and the only one made by a hospital. Oroville's solution was judged superior to those entered by major government contractors and top EHR vendors.

Oroville Hospital's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Robert Wentz emphasized that “we approached the VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest by focusing on a product that would benefit our patients and hospital, while improving daily operations.” He said that “the software was developed using a team approach, applying input from all areas impacted by scheduling including executives, physicians, nurses, technicians, clerical staff, IT and EHR support staff.” This was the same approach taken by the hospital that led to the success of the implementation of Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) in the hospital.  Overall, Wentz said, “I am extremely proud of Zack Gonzales and the hospital staff for putting together an amazing scheduling product that will benefit our hospital and patients tremendously.” 

According to Wentz, "This award validates Oroville Hospital's position on the need for providers to be involved in the continuing development and improvement of EHR software and gives us a place at the table in the development of electronic health records." Wentz added that “we understand that software is a tool to care for our patients and without the vast contributions from the entire team we would not be successful.” Wentz said that “it is our endeavor to continue pushing the envelope of open source healthcare software and adopting it in the private sector.”

Oroville Hospital's Chief Information Officer (CIO) Denise Lefevre added that “Oroville Hospital is dedicated to developing open source software that enhances the functionality of the VA’s Electronic Health Record, VistA.” She believes that “this is a major step by the VA in recognizing the talent available in the Open Source Community.”

The team that is developing the software is led by Zach Gonzales who heads the Hospital's software department. Gonzales said that this award "says a lot about the way we approach healthcare software." Gonzales said that he is "really proud of the team and how they worked it out," adding that he and his team "really embrace the idea of how to make the hospital operationally better."

Dr. Narinder Singh, the Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO) of the hospital said that “we created the scheduling software because there was a need at the hospital.” He said “Personally, I saw the need with my own schedule.  There were issues with our scheduling software and we really needed something that would be able to schedule inpatient, outpatient and procedures.  The contest helped to expedite the project.”

The VA launched the contest last year as part of an innovative approach to enhance the capabilities of VistA. The contest was hosted in the Challenge.gov website. It was driven by the VA’s decision to transition VistA 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 systems were eligible for prizes, but all entries in the contest were required to have open connections, or APIs. The VA was particularly interested in open source solution. In order for the contestants to be judged they had to contribute their open APIs and any open source content in their entries to the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA).

The VA will use the results of the contest to design final specification for an appointment scheduling system that will be deployed nationally through the VA medical system, the largest medical system in the United States. This contest is part of a full shift by the VA to an open source collaborative development methodology for the continuing development of VistA. The full scope of the strategy was laid out by Acting CIO Stephen Warren during the Second Annual OSEHRA Summit in Bethesda, MD a month ago. A transcript of his speech can be found here.

A previous attempt to modernize the 25-year-old module by contracting out the work ended as a complete failure at a loss of $167 million. This failure was one of the major factors in the VA's decision to shift away from using government contractors to collaborating with open source community in the continuing development of VistA.

Oroville Hospital was the first hospital in the world to self-implement VistA. By going with VistA, Oroville was able to deploy what is widely considered the best EHR in the world for a fraction of the cost of what other regional hospitals are paying for their EHRs. Speaking in January at the 26th VistA Community meeting in Sacramento, CA, Wentz presented detailed data to the audience showing that the hospital had spent less than 25% of the average cost of a proprietary EHR implementation for a regional hospital in its EHR implementation.

According to Wentz, the total cost of Oroville's VistA implementation as of his presentation was $12.8 million. Of this total, the VistA EHR component was $6.6 million while the additional $6.2 million corresponds to new computer and network equipment, as well as new laboratory equipment and other hardware costs. The hardware costs include purchasing tablet computers, primarily iPads, for its entire staff who use them to interact with VistA. This is a strikingly low figure when compared to proprietary EHR implementations in regional hospitals which currently average, on the low end, $25 to $30 million per hospital just for the EHR component.

In addition to the scheduling application, Oroville Hospital has also developed a series of software apps to enhance the capabilities of VistA. These include an ePrescribe module that was contributed to the open source community, code to ensure that the hospital met Meaningful Use (MU) requirements, and many others including a whole series of applications to help the hospital implement CPOE. The cost of the EHR implementation as well a CPOE rollout, including the cost of all of these applications, and the award-winning OH Scheduler, is still around $7 million.

About Oroville Hospital

Founded in 1962, Oroville Hospital has grown from a modest community hospital supported by a small staff of dedicated doctors into a 153-bed acute care facility specializing in a broad range of inpatient and outpatient services, including multiple physician practices.  Oroville Hospital is a private, non-profit corporation serving the citizens of the Oroville area and Butte County by OroHealth Corporation.  With a medical staff of more than 130 physicians, Oroville Hospital prides itself on providing the highest quality medical care in a friendly and compassionate environment.

For more information, please contact:

Shanna Roelofson
Director of Marketing
Oroville Hospital
(530) 532-8044