The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) invested in health information technology (IT) and produced a net savings of $3.09 billion, according to results of a new study conducted by the Center for Information Technology Leadership (CITL).1 Measurable gains in patient safety, outcomes, and patient satisfaction were also produced. Among the health IT used by the VA are computerized patient records, bar-coded medications, radiological imaging, and laboratory and medication ordering.
Between 1997 and 2007, the VA spent about $4 billion on health IT but saved more than $7 billion as a result of the technology, according to study findings. More than 86% of the savings resulted from eliminating duplicating tests and reducing the number of medical errors. The rest of the savings were from lower operating costs and reduced workloads.
The study looked at the success in meeting clinical guidelines through the use of electronic health records and computerized physician alerts. Diabetes, a chronic illness that affects 25% of VA patients, was a focus of the study. VA patients with diabetes had better rates of glucose testing compliance and control, more controlled cholesterol levels, and more timely retinal examinations compared with Medicare’s private-sector benchmark. In addition, the VA averaged about 15 percentage points higher than the private sector on preventive care for patients with diabetes.
“VA has seen its investment in health information technology pay off for veterans and taxpayers for many years, and this study provides positive evidence for this correlation,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “The benefits have exceeded costs, proving that the implementation of secure, efficient systems of electronic records is a good idea for all our citizens.”
The study authors are associated with the CITL, a research organization in Charlestown, Mass. CITL is focused on guiding the health care community in making informed strategic IT investment decisions.
1. Byrne CM, Mercincavage LM, Pan EC, et al. The value from investments in health information technology at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010;29:629-638.