Study: VA’s Computer Systems Cost Billions, but Have Big Payback

The biggest VA outlay — and its biggest savings generator — was the Vista’s Computerized Patient Record System, the home-grown system for electronic health records that was found by the study to cost $3.6 billion. Other IT networks for administering medications with bar codes, picture archiving and communication systems and the Laboratory Electronic Data Interoperability application together cost $470 million.

The study also did comparisons between the VA and the private sector. It found the government agency had spent proportionally more on IT than the private sector but could claim better performance in such areas as cancer screening and better glucose measures for diabetics.

The authors cites lots of limits on their data. They also note the VA has a unique, integrated structure that is more likely to produce results from IT projects and is hard to match in the private sector. In short, they say your results may vary.

Here’s an abstract of the study. For those who can’t get enough of this stuff, the latest issue of Health Affairs has numerous other articles on the track record and outlook for health IT in the U.S.

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