VA Care Matches—or Bests—Non-VA Care

Amid public and congressional discussion about VA care quality, a RAND survey should help allay some concerns.


Researchers from RAND Corp. compared performance between each VA facility and 3 corresponding non-VA settings with similar geographic settings, size, and complexity of care, using recent data on patient safety, mortality and readmission, inpatient and outpatient effectiveness, and patient-centered care.

VA hospitals performed on average the same as or significantly better than the non-VA hospitals on all 6 measures of inpatient safety, all 3 inpatient mortality measures, and 12 inpatient effectiveness measures. VA facilities also performed significantly better than commercial HMOs and Medicaid HMOs for all 16 outpatient effectiveness measures. Compared with Medicare HMOs, the VA did significantly better on 14 measures and did not differ on 2.

However, the VA performance was worse than the non-VA hospitals on 3 readmission measures and 2 effectiveness measures. For example, VA inpatient performance was significantly lower on the patient experience measure for pain management.

The researchers saw “high variation” across VA facilities in performance on some quality measures, although they note that variation was even greater among non-VA hospitals. “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 Carrie Farmer, a co-author of the study.

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