VHA Inc., a leading US network of community-owned health care systems and physicians, has signed an agreement with IBM to cost effectively centrally procure desktop and notebook computers, servers and workstations to the 2,200 healthcare organisations within VHA.

The agreement is intended to help participating organisations improve their overall efficiency, reduce costs and improve work force productivity by making business IT available more cost effectively.

VHA is a for-profit cooperative. As a cooperative, member organizations earn cash and equity each time they purchase a VHA product or service. It employs over 1.1 million staff are employed by healthcare organisations within VHA, including 175,000 physicians, and 255,000 nurses.

"Information technology has incredible potential to automate routine processes and help our members solve many of the issues they face, from work force problems to quality of care issues. But the cost of adding technology can be a hurdle," K. Jeffrey Hayes, VHA’s senior vice president of business operations said in a statement.

He added: "By partnering with IBM, our members will be able to take advantage of world-class technology innovation in areas such as security and manageability at significant savings."

Products offered under the agreement include IBM eServer xSeries servers and IntelliStation workstations to facilitate improved productivity for both end-users and the IT support team. Also offered are IBM’s ThinkPad notebook and NetVista desktop computers.

"This is another example of how IBM is playing a major role in helping the health care industry adopt e-business technology to help patients while holding the line on spiraling costs," said Russ Ricci, M.D., general manager of IBM Global Healthcare.

VHA organisations operate in 48 states (minus Nevada and Utah) – representing more than one-quarter of the US’s community-owned hospitals. VHA member organisations range from single 50-bed facilities to large, integrated health care systems made up of multiple hospitals, physician clinics and support care sites.