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Quality of Care

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This blog we’re going to look at a bit of good news for the VA. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that VA hospitals often perform better care than private sector healthcare institutions. Or do they?

According to authors of the study, the VA does better in treating patients in the hospital who are diagnosed with heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive lung disease. And the same holds true for surgical conditions such as death among patients with post-surgical complications, postoperative respiratory (lung) failure, in-operation hemorrhage, and serious bloodclots or bloodstream infection after surgery.

All this information can be found for your local VA and community hospitals on a website called Hospital Compare. This process seems like an honest way of reporting data and not subject to manipulation. Even the study’s co-author Dr. William Weeks of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice concludes by saying “Assuming the measures are calculated in a fair and comparable way, our findings suggest that, for these measures, VA quality is at least as good as non-VA quality and often better.” And even the current Secretary for Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, applauded the results. Bravo VA!

However, we strongly disagree with the suggestion that VA should not outsource care to the private sector. Nearly every VA has serious problems recruiting and retaining quality specialists and primary care providers. The system simply can’t handle an increase in patient volume. Some departments such as Urology are perennially understaffed and this is not likely to improve until the VA adopts a competitive salary structure. And while one study showing high quality of care is encouraging, one study is only one study. Let’s stay positive and hope more of the same comes our way in 2019.

Prof. Sam

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