VA outperforms other hospitals in quality but not patient satisfaction, study finds

Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals generally performed better than non-VA hospitals on certain outcomes measures, but worse on patient experience and behavioral measures, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The findings come as VA faces mounting criticism over patient wait times and quality of care at certain VA facilities.

Highest levels of chaos' threaten care at VA hospital, report finds

Study details

In light of those concerns, researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine sought to compare VA and non-VA hospitals based on available outcome, patient experience, and behavioral health measures.

For the study, the researchers examined data on 129 VA and 4,010 non-VA hospitals from CMS' Hospital Compare website. The CMS data, which were merged with 2014 American Hospital Association Annual Survey data, spanned July 2012 to March 2015.

The researchers compared VA and non-VA hospitals' performance on:

  • 17 outcome measures, including nine Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Patient Safety Indicators, four mortality measures, and four readmissions measures;
  • 10 patient experience measures; and
  • Nine behavioral health measures.

Findings

When compared with non-VA hospitals, the researchers found that VA hospitals had lower 30-day mortality and readmission rates and performed better in six of the nine patient safety indicators examined.

However, VA hospitals scored worse on behavioral health and patient experience measures, including noise levels, pain management, provider communication, responsiveness, and if patients would recommend the hospitals.

The researchers wrote that VA hospitals might outperform non-VA hospitals on outcome measures because the department over the past few decades has invested time and effort into quality improvement and care coordination and, unlike other hospitals, most of VA's patients receive all of their care within one system.

Based on the data, the authors concluded that "VA hospitals should focus on improving certain aspects of patient experience and behavioral health" (Punke, Becker's Hospital Review, 4/17; MedPage Today, 4/17; Blay et al., JAMA Internal Medicine, 4/17).

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