The overall quality of care provided by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration is equal to or better than that provided by other health care systems in the United States, a new report says.
The Rand Corporation study did find significant variation in quality among individual VA hospitals — but less variation than was seen among non-VA facilities.
“Consistent with previous studies, our analysis found that the VA health care system generally provides care that is higher in quality than what is offered elsewhere in communities across the nation,” study lead author Rebecca Anhang Price said in a Rand news release.
She’s a senior policy researcher for the nonprofit research organization.
The researchers analyzed 2013 and 2014 national data for the study. They reviewed commonly used measures of health care quality at the VA’s 135 facilities. Then they compared the results with those of non-VA facilities with similar characteristics, as well as health systems overall.
VA hospitals did as well or far better than non-VA hospitals on all measures of inpatient safety, all measures of inpatient death and 12 measures of the effectiveness of inpatient care, the researchers said.
However, the VA hospitals did significantly worse on three readmission measures and two effectiveness measures.
In terms of outpatient care, the researchers concluded that VA services provided better quality than commercial HMOs, Medicaid HMOs and Medicare HMOs.
Some of the variation between VA facilities may be due to the fact that some care for older and sicker patients, according to the study authors.
Even so, they said the VA needs to target quality improvement efforts to ensure that veterans receive uniformly high-quality care at all facilities.
“The variation among VA health facilities shows that veterans in some areas are not receiving the same high-quality care that other VA facilities are able to provide,” said study co-author Carrie Farmer, a senior policy researcher at Rand.
Some critics have charged in the past that certain VA hospitals struggled with problems, including providing timely treatment for vulnerable veterans.
National information used for the study included the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, and the Survey of Healthcare Experiences of Veterans.
The results were published online April 25 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Here’s where you can find out more about the VA health system.
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