HERC: Data
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Researchers undertaking economic analysis have a variety of datasets to choose from. These include the VA General Ledger (FMS), utilization files, fee basis files, and data from the VA fixed asset package, the Managerial Cost Accounting System (MCA; formerly the Decision Support System (DSS)), and the HERC average cost datasets. In FY13, many datasets migrated to VA's Corporate Data Warehouse (CDW). Researchers will need access to the VA Informatics and Computing Infrastructure (VINCI) workspace to analyze these data.

Researchers should also be aware that the CDW include additional data sources not on the Austin system, including data in the VA computerized medical records system (VISTA) and vital status files.

Types and Sources of VA Cost and Utilization Data

  HERC average cost HERC person-levelcost MCA NDE MCA IPD MCA ALBCC FMS PAID NPCD PTF/Med SAS PBM VistA
Inpatient X X X X       X    
Outpatient X X X X       X    
Pharmacy     X X         X X
Labor         X X X      


Types and Sources of Non-VA Cost and Utilization Data

  Non-VA Medical Care Other
Inpatient X X
Outpatient X X
Pharmacy X X
Labor   X
Other   X



Accessing Cost and Utilization Data for VHA Research

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) uses the patient Social Security Number (SSN) as the medical record number. In order to protect patient privacy and maintain the security of medical records, research use of SSNs is highly regulated.

These regulations require two types of patient consent. Study participants must provide informed consent to participate in research. They must also provide a separate authorization to access their medical records under the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. The study protocol must be approved by a Federally chartered committee for the protection of human subjects (also called an Institutional Review Board). If the researcher can show that it is impossible to obtain these permissions, the Institutional Review Board may grant a waiver from this requirement.

The study must also be approved by a VHA Research and Development Committee. Both IRB and R&D committee approvals require proof that data will be stored in a highly secure environment, and that research staff have been trained in privacy, information security, and human subjects' protection.

Once these approvals have been obtained, the principal investigator must obtain an additional level of permission to access data that includes SSNs. This permission is specific to a single research project. For more information on data access, people can visit:

  • NDS VHA Data Portal Web page: http://vaww.vhadataportal.med.va.gov/Home.aspx
  • NDS DART Web page: https://vhacdwtest02.vha.med.va.gov:8443/vinci_dart_client/dart9/index.html
  • VINCI Central Home page: https://vaww.vinci.med.va.gov/vincicentral/default.aspx