Use of the Decision Support System for VA Cost-Effectiveness Research

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is adopting the Decision Support System (DSS), computer software and databases which include a cost-accounting system which determines the cost of health care products and patient encounters.


A system for providing cost data for cost-effectiveness analysis should be provide valid, detailed, and comprehensive data that can be aggregated.


The design of DSS is described and compared with those criteria. Utilization data from DSS was compared with other VA utilization data. Aggregate DSS cost data from 35 medical centers was compared with relative resource weights developed for the Medicare program.


Data on hospital stays at 3 facilities found that 3.7% of the stays in DSS were not in the VA discharge database, whereas 7.6% of the stays in the discharge data were not in DSS. DSS reported between 68.8% and 97.1% of the outpatient encounters reported by six facilities in the ambulatory care data base. Relative weights for each Diagnosis Related Group based on DSS data from 35 VA facilities correlated with Medicare weights (correlation coefficient of .853).


DSS will be useful for research if certain problems are overcome. It is difficult to distinguish long-term from acute hospital care. VA does not have a complete database of all inpatient procedures, so DSS has not assigned them a specific cost. The authority to access encounter-level DSS data needs to be centralized. Researchers can provide the feedback needed to improve DSS cost estimates. A comprehensive encounter-level extract would facilitate use of DSS for research.

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