VHA shaves data storage costs with CD-ROM

The Veterans Health Administration’s decision to store monthly accounting
information on CD-ROMs instead of paper will save taxpayers $420,000 a year, a VHA
official said.

VHA began sending CD-ROMs to 146 VHA sites nationwide in October. The CD-ROMs let the
agency’s financial management employees access end-of-the-month accounting reports on
their desktop PCs instead of sorting through boxes of paper.

“Not only will the CD-ROMs stop financial operations personnel from digging
through mountains of paper, there will be no storage problems,” said Dennis Egolf,
chief financial officer in the VHA medical center in Louisville, Ky.

Egolf in April 1997 chaired a subcommittee of VHA’s Financial Management Advisory
Council that studied streamlining the release of financial management system reports.

The Veterans Affairs Department’s Ames Automation Center in Austin, Texas,
generated more than 1 million pages of accounting reports each month. Ames then sent out
hard copies and microfilm to 214 VA sites, which cost $35,000 in postage a month.

Egolf’s committee chose the CD-ROM as the new vehicle to store and send the FMS
reports and asked Ames to solicit bids. The center received five bids and whittled the
choices down to two.

Egolf selected the Electrofiche CD-ROM from the Computer Support Group Inc. of
Ellisville, Mo., because the company could easily compress one FMS report on a CD-ROM.

Ames now sends the mainframe tapes or spoolfiles to CSG. The company then turns the
CD-ROMs around in three days, Egolf said.

CSG can compress up to 7G of data and adds indices to ease users’ search.

Users can also print, fax, e-mail or export the information from the CD-ROM to programs
such as Microsoft Excel, said Dennis Fitzgerald, CSG’s Electrofiche designer.

VA in April awarded a one-year, $200,000 contract to CSG and began beta-testing the
CD-ROMs in June.

The department expects to extend the contract four more years as the Veterans Benefits
Administration and other VA agencies warm to the idea, Egolf said. 

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