HERC: About Us
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About Us

Overview

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 courses 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, issues technical reports with analyses of economic data, and a news feed to update customers on HERC activities. 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.


Research

Ongoing Research Studies

The HSR&D Health Economics Resource Center (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 QUERI Program, and the economics coordinating center for the VA Cooperative Studies Program. 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. The Health Economics Resource Center (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 courses and 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 Decision Support System (DSS) cost data. HERC publishes guidebooks, technical reports, and a news feed.

HERC economists conduct investigator-initiated research funded by VA Health Service Research and Development Service. They also assist with cost-effectiveness analysis in projects funded by HSR&D and the HSR&D Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) program.

Cooperative Studies

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.

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Hiring a Health Economist

The Health Economics Resource Center offers training and consulting services to VA health economists and VA researchers needing health economics expertise. 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.

To help build a community of health economists, HERC maintains a list of health economics experts listing their geographic locations and areas of expertise. Researchers who are planning a study can use this list to find a health economist to include in their funding proposal.

In general, health economists are difficult to recruit. Health economists may obtain their PhD from a University economics department, or from a health services research program. Because health economists are recruited by the pharmaceutical industry, medical schools, and other professional schools, starting salaries tend to be higher than those for other health services researchers. Government research centers have had more success in hiring health economists when the position is associated with an academic appointment or the opportunity to conduct independent, peer-reviewed research with the possibility of publication in the academic literature. Experienced health economists are very difficult to recruit at current government salary levels.

The best place to advertise for economists is the "Job Opportunities for Economists", also known as JOE, a web site operated by the American Economic Association. This online employment site is free to job seekers, and supported by fees from employers advertising positions.  To find an economist with expertise in healthcare, the advertisement should be sure to identify the health as the economic specialty. The Journal of Economic Literature Classification is "I1-Health".

New PhD economists look for work beginning in October of the year prior to their graduation, and it important to submit an advertisement by October in order to receive applications to interview candidates in person in early January at the American Economics Association meeting. Details about the meeting may be found at the AEA web site. Almost all new PhD economists go to this meeting for interviews. Employers then invite their favored candidates for a visit to present a seminar and be more extensively interviewed; job offers are tendered in the early spring, and then the market closes until the next year.

The International Health Economics Association also lists job openings in the job listings page on the IHEA web site. Job listings e-mailed to IHEA at the address given on the job page will be listed at no charge.

Information about jobs for health services researchers with economics expertise may be found from the Academy for Health Services Research and Health Policy. Employers may advertise open positions on career center page on the Academy web site. There is a small job market at the Academy's June meeting. Employers list jobs, and job candidates provide their resumes. Binders with job listings and resumes may reviewed at the meeting; free photocopying is available. The complete binder may be purchased after the meeting is over.

Health economics jobs are occasionally listed in the publications of the American Public Health Association, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Nations' Health. Ads are expensive, as these are widely circulated publications. APHA also operates a web based career service, which lists both employer and job candidate information. The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research and the Society for Medical Decision Making also have web sites that may have  job listings.


Letters of Support

Helping researchers who are writing proposals is one way HERC fulfills its mission of improving the quality of VA health economics research. HERC will provide information about cost data, methods, cost-effectiveness analysis, study design, and other issues. HERC does not actually design or carry out customers' studies.

HERC would like to avoid writing letters of general endorsement for a study or its methods. Short turn-around times provide little chance for us to review finished proposals in a timely manner. Moreover, HERC does not want to be perceived as the organization that evaluates the scientific quality of proposals with economics; that is the role of the peer review committee.

We will write letters to describe HERC products or services needed for a particular study. For example, we can describe the availability of the HERC average cost data set, and whether it will be useful in answering your study questions.

Individual HERC investigators who are directly involved in designing and carrying out a study may write a letter of support for their collaborator's proposal; however, in these cases, it is more likely that they will be listed as a funded co-investigator.


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