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VA Vows to Join the API Movement

March 8, 2018
by David Raths
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‘Lighthouse Lab’ to provide app developers access to API for VA data sets
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As part of a larger federal government push on patient data access, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced the launch of a “beta” version of its Lighthouse Lab, which offers software developers access to tools for creating mobile and web applications to help veterans better manage their care, services and benefits. 

“One of my top five priorities is to modernize our systems, and the announcement of the Lighthouse Lab supports VA’s move toward adopting commercial off-the-shelf products,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, in a prepared statement. Shulkin is scheduled to discuss medical care for veterans, as well as changes and innovations at the department as a keynote speaker on the last day of the HIMSS conference.

“Lighthouse represents VA’s commitment to providing a digital experience in line with what veterans are getting from the private sector by rapidly bringing cutting-edge solutions into VA that can help us accommodate our Veterans’ unique needs,” he added.

Considered the “front door” to VA’s vast data stores, Lighthouse is the department’s application programming interface management platform. VA is seeking a small, initial-user group to begin building the Lighthouse Lab developer community. Participation will include helping to test APIs, building out documentation, developing governance standards and testing developer support workflows. 

Lighthouse’s architecture supports VA’s move toward adopting commercial off-the-shelf products and innovative acquisition approaches, such as micro-purchasing agreements with a $3,500 threshold for technology solutions that can be rapidly deployed to veterans. 

To that end, VA is releasing three initial micro-purchasing request for proposals (RFP) on the Lighthouse Github repository, and expects awards will be decided by the end of March. Micro-purchasing awards allow VA to increase the number of contracts awarded to small businesses and diversify the development ecosystem at VA. Later this spring, VA will issue the next Lighthouse RFP. 

Also at HIMSS, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced her agency’s MyHealthEData initiative to give patients more control of their medical data. Shulkin applauded CMS’ effort and the launch of Blue Button 2.0, a software developer-friendly API that enables Medicare beneficiaries to connect their claims data to applications, services and research programs.  “We partnered on the original Blue Button and are partnering on Blue Button 2.0,” Shulkin said. “This will further allow a patient to access and share their health-care information, which will be of great value to veterans and other citizens.” 


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