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VA hospitals outperform mainstream facilities on readmissions, mortality rates

The agency scored higher on six of nine patient safety indicators, but still needs to work on behavioral health and patient experience.

Jessica Davis, Associate Editor

Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX (via Wikimedia Commons)Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX (via Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals outperform non-VA hospitals in readmissions, patient outcomes and mortality rates, according to a recent report from JAMA Internal Medicine.

However, the VA still needs to work on behavioral health and patient experience, the data shows.

JAMA researchers examined patient experience and hospital data for 129 VA and 4,010 non-VA facilities using the CMS Hospital Compare site for the reporting period of July 2012 through March 2015 and the 2014 American Hospital Association Annual Survey data.

[Also: Trump signs bill to continue 'doctor choice' program for veterans]

VA hospitals scored higher on six of the nine patient safety indicators than the non-VA facilities. There were no significant differences in the other three categories. The report found the VA also had better outcomes on mortality and readmissions metrics.

But when it comes to patient experience, non-VA hospitals scored better than VA overall when it comes to nursing and physician communications, responsiveness, quietness, pain management and on whether a patient would recommend the hospital to others.

Further, VA hospitals only did better on one of nine measures when it comes to behavioral health, while non-VA hospitals did better on four of nine.

[Also: VA finally gets transparent on veteran wait times, clinical care quality]

The reason for the findings point to the VA's considerable investment in quality improvement and care coordination over the last 30 years, according to the report. VA also may have better documentation for risk adjustment, which stems from a unified electronic health record and patients mostly have care within one system.

"While concerns remain about the validity of some of the measures used in current public reporting of health quality, the available data suggests that VA hospitals have a similar or more favorable quality compared with non-VA hospitals," the authors wrote.

"On the other hand, these results suggest that VA hospitals should focus on improving certain aspects of patient experience and behavioral health," the authors concluded. "Hospitals can use these data to identify opportunities for quality improvement."

VA is already working to improve patient experience with last week's release of its Access and Quality tool that allows veterans to see patient wait times and care quality data in real-time of VA clinics in their area.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com


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