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R--RFI for VistA Open Source

Solicitation Number: VA11810RI0714
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Office: VA Technology Acquisition Center
Location: VA Technology Acquisition Center
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Added: Aug 11, 2010 9:01 am
INTRODUCTION: This is not a solicitation. As part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) market research process, this is a request for information (RFI) to assist us in developing a strategy for potential future capability development and/or enhancement of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (Vista) system. More specifically, the VA is evaluating the viability of including Open Source (OS) software as a component of IT development within the VistA Electronic Health Record (EHR) Architecture. As such VA is interested in the opinions of Government, industry and academia with regard to development and implementation of procedures, governance, planning, management, oversight and collaboration, as well as management of and compliance with intellectual property, all with regard to development and implementation of OS code in the VistA EHR.

BACKGROUND: The President's agenda for sweeping transformation of health care delivery presents many opportunities for the VA. Leveraging VistA to drive expansion of Electronic Health Records (EHR) is one of the opportunities the VA is exploring. Innovation on VistA is a challenge that could be taken on immediately by opening VistA code to the open source community.

In addition to exclusively operating and maintaining VistA within the government as the most comprehensive electronic medical record platform today, VA also makes the source code publicly available. There are several organizations that use VistA along with private sector companies that have built their businesses on VistA's core capabilities by replicating them, programming new implementations, or by providing configuration services.

Therefore, the VA is considering an "open source" model for VistA that would enable VA to benefit from innovations that third parties could make available according to a code-sharing framework. Three immediate advantages for VistA development present themselves by doing so: 1) Greater innovation and better integration of new capabilities resulting from collaboration with the open source community, 2) Improvements in capabilities, quality, reliability, and robustness, and 3) Broader proliferation of common electronic health record software and solutions.

However, while the collaboration in the open source community brings with it tremendous options, it also requires a distinct and strong appreciation for: 1) the necessity of effective configuration management (CM), 2) the sensitivities regarding intellectual property such as copyrights and licensing, 3) the necessary governance around very dynamic development collaborations essential to code and "kernel" stability and robustness for the long term, and finally 4) the absolute necessity for certification, validation and review of code prior to release.

INFORMATION REQUESTED: Request interested parties provide information for the following areas:

1. What role should VA assume within an Open Source VistA Ecosystem? Please consider areas including as a user, developer, maintainer, certifier, operator, and/or distributor of the Open Source VistA EHR.

2. What role should Open Source (eg, non-VA sponsored) developers assume within an Open Source VistA Ecosystem?

3. What specific functions of VistA Open Source, should VA be prepared to fund, underwrite or initiate?

4. How would VA go about participating and collaborating in the open source community for an effort like VistA?

5. How would other federal agencies participate or benefit from an Open Source approach to VistA EHR?

6. How would VA induct and implement appropriately qualified software components (built by non-governmental entities and available via open source and/or licensed software channels) into the mainline of VistA?

7. Would a truly open source version of VistA accelerate, promote, extend, and/or grow VistA's capabilities in ways that would also simultaneously benefit Veterans and taxpayers?

8. What impacts, consequences, and risks would there be to the government from pursuing an Open Source strategy for VistA?

9. What are the intellectual property rights and licensing issues?

10. What are the methods for certification and adoption?

11. What are the mechanics of governance and who would be the stakeholders?

12. Should the VA/Government administrate the governance process? If not, what governance approach should be utilized?

13. What other topics should the government consider when managing Open source development and governance not seen in this RFI. ?

14. What might the consequences be of doing any of the above?

SPECIFIC RESPONSE INSTRUCTIONS: This will be a multi-step process. During this first step, VA is soliciting your responses to this RFI and offers you the opportunity to propose other questions and comments that may be contained in a second release of an RFI on this subject during September 2010 commensurate with meetings and reviews being held within VA. Therefore, please submit your response to this RFI in accordance with the following: 1) "White" paper format with no more than 20 pages (excluding transmittal page) Include the name, email address and phone number of the appropriate representative of your company; 2) Address each of the topics described above; 3) Submit your response via email to ; 4) Please submit your response by 1:00 P.M. Eastern Time on August 25, 2010; 5) Mark your response as "Proprietary Information" if the information is considered business sensitive.

ROAD AHEAD: White Paper responses submitted by interested parties will be used as part of market research by VA representatives to develop VistA OS options. In accordance with FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Any contract that might be awarded based on information received or derived from this RFI will be the outcome of the competitive process. This announcement is based upon the best information available, is subject to future modification, is not a request for proposal, and in no way commits the Government to award of a contract. VA will not be responsible for any costs incurred by responding to this RFI.
Department of Veterans Affairs;Technology Acquisition Center;260 Industrial Way West;Eatontown NJ 07724
United States
Scott Cragg

Contract Specialist