The mission of the VA Health Economics Resource Center (HERC) is to increase the quality of VA health economics research and cost-effectiveness studies so that the nation and the nation’s veterans may get the best possible health care value from available resources. HERC was created in 1999 to respond to the VA Health Services Research and Development Service request for proposals to create a resource center on health economics.
Located in Menlo Park, California, HERC helps VA researchers determine the cost of VA care, assess cost-effectiveness, and evaluate the efficiency of VA programs and providers. The center conducts two seminar series on health economics, coordinates monthly economic Cyber Seminars, and operates an economics consulting service for VA researchers.
VA researchers who have a specific question not already addressed by the web site may contact our consulting service. Due to the great demand for health economics expertise, HERC economists do not ordinarily respond to requests for consulting assistance by becoming involved as co-investigators. HERC maintains a database of VA health economists, including key words listing their research interests.
HERC estimates the cost of all VA health care encounters, develops guidebooks to VA data, and issues technical reports with analyses of economic data. The expertise of HERC economists is developed in their participation in economic studies that are funded by VA HSR&D, the QUERI Initiative, the Cooperative Studies Program, and the National Institutes of Health.
Ongoing Research Studies
The HSR&D HERC is dedicated to increasing VA's capacity to conduct high-quality health economics research and cost-effectiveness studies. It is the economics resource center of the VA Health Services Research and Development Service, the VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) Program, and the economics coordinating center for the VA Cooperative Studies Program (CSP). HERC research studies are supported by these VA intramural research agencies, by the National Institutes for Health, and by other research sponsors.
Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D)
The VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) service supports research on innovative strategies that lead to accessible, high quality, and cost-effective care for veterans and the nation. HERC receives core support from HSR&D to act as a national center that helps VA researchers determine the cost of VA care, assess cost-effectiveness, assess the budget impact of adopting and implementing new technologies, and evaluate the efficiency of VA programs and providers. HERC operates an economics consulting service for VA researchers. It offers health economics seminars. HERC works to improve methods and data available to VA economics researchers. HERC develops micro-costing methods, evaluates VA cost and utilization databases, estimates the cost of all VA health care encounters, and analyzes VA Managerial Cost Accounting (MCA; formerly Decision Support System) cost data. HERC publishes guidebooks and technical reports.
HERC economists conduct investigator-initiated research funded by VA HSR&D Service. They also assist with cost-effectiveness analysis in projects funded by HSR&D and the HSR&D QUERI Program.
The VA Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) conducts multi-site randomized clinical trials of innovations in health care. HERC economists help plan, implement, and analyze data from trials coordinated by CSP that evaluate economic hypotheses.
Each year HERC is engaged in several special priorities. These special priorities are topics of high interest or demand and often require collaboration with other researchers and/or VHA program offices. We believe these initiatives and collaborations will help us to disseminate health economics information, to make VA data more accessible, and to create stronger relationships, studies, and resources within VA.
Data Access (Handbook 1200.12)
HERC is a part of the group re-writing VHA Handbook 1200.12 on data access. We want to ensure economics data are represented when discussing issues to data access and data transparency. Todd Wagner, PhD is a part of the workgroup re-writing Handbook 1200.12.
Understanding Choice and Community Care Data
HERC is involved in research projects on Choice data and community care. HERC has convened with other researchers working with Choice and Community Care data, as well as the Office of Community Care, to discuss data, trends, and findings. Todd Wagner, PhD initiated the group of HSR&D researchers, which includes others such as Megan Vanneman, PhD (Salt Lake City VAMC) and Amy Rosen, PhD (Boston VAMC).
Customer feedback from our focus groups and survey suggest that customers often search the HERC documentation, as well as VA Information Resource Center (VIReC) and VA Informatics and Computing Infrastructure (VINCI) documentation when looking for answers to data-related questions, and are uncertain of which source is the most complete, up-to-date, or accurate. We have spoken with VIReC and VINCI about this problem and both groups have heard similar responses. We propose a joint effort to standardize our documentation format as well as a common location for our data documentation to be stored, similar to the VHA Data Portal. This effort will combine administration, staff, and customers from all three centers to ensure these changes are effective and promote efficiency in health services research. Todd Wagner, PhD is working with Maria Souden, PhD of VIReC and Scott DuVall, PhD of VINCI.
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