VA wants to get more out of DSS

VA wants to get more out of DSS

The Veterans Affairs Department is creating a business plan to ensure that its Decision Support System is fully used in both clinical and financial areas.

For fiscal 2002, veterans integrated service networks will use DSS for budget allocation, said Gary Christopherson, the Veterans Health Administration's chief information officer. All 50 states are included in one of the regional VISNs.

VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi is planning for the department to use the system more broadly at the local VA medical center level next year for quality and process improvements, he added.

DSS is an executive information system designed to prepare budgets for medical centers, allocate resources based on performance and workload, generate productivity analyses and patient-specific costs, support quality improvement initiatives, measure effectiveness of health care delivery processes and improve efficiency of care processes.

VA implemented DSS in all its medical centers in October 1998 and has spent nearly $261 million to develop and operate it from fiscal 1992 through fiscal 2000.

The department expects to spend about $50 million to operate DSS in fiscal 2001.

Not fully utilized

The General Accounting Office had raised concerns that medical centers were not using the system for all its intended purposes even though some VISNs reported some cost reductions and improved clinical processes.

VISN 20, which consists of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, is the only network that is not using the system to support its decision-making, although some of its medical centers and clinics do use the system.

Another step to ensure that DSS is being used fully is that, since March, the system is being managed by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer instead of the chief information officer, Christopherson said.

That ensures DSS is more properly aligned with operational activities such as productivity analyses, process improvement, hospital department budgeting and planning, he said.

Addressing the concern that, with this move, the system will be used more for financial rather than clinical benefits, Christopherson said the DSS steering committee includes two physicians.

DSS is being monitored to ensure that VISN managers use it, he said.

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