While VA facilities outperformed on care quality and patient safety, patient satisfaction scores were equal to or higher for civilian organizations.
Surgical care from Veterans Affairs health facilities is of equal or better quality as that delivered at other local, non-VA healthcare facilities, according to a study conducted by the White River Junction VA Medical Center in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
This data comes in the midst of a near six-year effort for the VA to revamp its public image, specifically alleviating concerns about patient access to care, long wait times, and clinical care quality and patient safety.
This data also comes as the VA balances its community care benefit as a part of the MISSION Act. The community care access program, which went live in June 2019, aims to connect veterans facing extraordinary care access barriers within the VA with a civilian healthcare provider that can provide access.
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Care access barriers that might qualify a veteran for the community care program would include needing a service not offered at a VA medical center within a reasonable distance or experiencing delays in care access.
Because veterans face these varying options for care access, it is essential they understand the quality of care they may receive from different providers, the researchers said. This latest data pushes back on the notion that healthcare from a non-VA facility might be of higher quality than that deliver in a VA facility.
The researchers looked at clinical quality measures at VA medical centers in New England, the West and Southwest, and the Deep South. Researchers specifically looked at VA medical centers in areas that also have a non-VA facility within 25. The researchers compared the facilities based on surgical quality and patient satisfaction.
By and large, VA medical centers performed better, or at least equally to, civilian medical facilities.
More specifically, VA medical centers tended to perform better on patient safety than civilian medical centers. The 34 VA medical centers included in the study outperformed the 329 surrounding non-Vas in rates of wound dehiscence, accidental lacerations, and perioperative hemorrhage/hematoma. VA medical centers also had better composite patient safety indicators.
Where VA medical centers performed similarly to non-VA organizations was in patient satisfaction. The researchers looked at Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys for each of the studied facilities, finding similar scores for various domains.
On a one-to-five scale, VA medical centers received a 3.28 in overall ratings, compared to 3.38 ratings for non-VA facilities. VA medical centers received a 2.87 for a summary rating for the overall hospital stay, which was about on par with the 2.92 civilian hospitals received.
The compiled patient satisfaction scores for both VA and non-VA facilities were about the same, coming in at a 2.96 versus 2.97, respectively.
Patients visiting a VA medical center were less likely to recommend the facility to a friend. “Would recommend” ratings hit a 2.7 for VA facilities, compared to 3.13 for non-VA organizations.
Again, these findings are important as veterans face an array of care access options as a part of the community care benefit in the MISSION Act.
“The prospect of having surgery can be stressful,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “For Veterans, who often have choices in where they receive care, it is in their best interest to make fully informed health care decisions. This study provides valuable information when faced with such an important choice.”
This is not the first study to report improving patient satisfaction with VA healthcare. In October 2019, a survey from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) found that 82 percent of veterans are satisfied with the agency’s healthcare offerings, including care access.
Seventy-four percent of the 6,900 respondents said they have seen improvements in their preferred VA facilities within the past year, a ten-percentage point boost since the previous year’s observations. Ninety-one percent of veterans said they would recommend receiving healthcare through the VA, save for one outlier state. In Alabama, only 74 percent of veterans recommended VA healthcare.
What’s more, the report found the VA is improving with appointment wait times, a key sticking point since the 2014 wait time scandal that resulted in the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Eighty-four percent of veteran respondents reported that they have received their care in a timely manner. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they received an appointment within 14 days for most of their healthcare needs and 80 percent said they obtained an appointment within the 30-day timeframe outlined by the VA.
“The VFW survey highlights the great work that we are seeing at VA across the nation,” Wilkie said in a statement at the time. “The 2019 Our Care survey results highlight VA’s continued commitment to improving Veteran care and how Veterans access the benefits they have earned, including improvements to facility availability, the streamlining of community care programs under MISSION Act and overall technological modernization.”
Source: Patientengagement Hit