VA health IT study comes with caveat, researcher says

Estimated $3 billion savings may not be actual savings

A researcher who estimated a $3 billion net savings for the Veterans Affairs Department through use of health information technology has added caveats to that assessment.

The researcher, Douglas Johnson, executive director of the Center for Information Technology Leadership and an author of the VA study, told National Public Radio in an April 7 report that the study shows what savings were possible, but not what the VA actually saved.


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"We are not certain to what extent they were realized," Johnson reportedly said. "We would like to have empirical studies. We know the VA is heading that way. It's our hope that this study would contribute to how to measure health IT value."

VA officials did not respond to a request for comment today.

The study was published in the journal Health Affairs, and was available online for subscribers only. Health Affairs published an abstract of the study, and the VA released a statement on the study on April 7. According to those documents, the VA spent $4 billion on health IT from 1997 to 2007, and saved an estimated $7 billion, resulting in a net estimated savings of $3 billion. The VA also was said to have improved delivery of care through the use of health IT.

According to a review copy of the study, which the VA released on April 8, the estimated $3 billion savings were considered “likely” and were intended to provide ideas on how to measure the value of health IT.

“Our findings suggest that health IT at the VA was associated with gains in quality, and likely produced benefits in excess of costs. This study serves as a framework to inform efforts around measuring and calculating the benefits of federal health IT stimulus programs,” the study review copy states.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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