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Veteran Satisfaction with Early Experiences of Health Care Through the Veterans Choice Program: a Concurrent Mixed Methods Study.

Jones AL, Fine MJ, Stone RA, Gao S, Hausmann LRM, Burkitt KH, Taber PA, Switzer GE, Good CB, Vanneman ME, Zickmund SL. Veteran Satisfaction with Early Experiences of Health Care Through the Veterans Choice Program: a Concurrent Mixed Methods Study. Journal of general internal medicine. 2019 Sep 1; 34(9):1925-1933.

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BACKGROUND: The 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (i.e., "Choice") allows eligible Veterans to receive covered health care outside the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System. The initial implementation of Choice was challenging, and use was limited in the first year. OBJECTIVE: To assess satisfaction with Choice, and identify reasons for satisfaction and dissatisfaction during its early implementation. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: Semi-structured telephone interviews from July to September 2015 with Choice-eligible Veterans from 25 VA facilities across the USA. MAIN MEASURES: Satisfaction was assessed with 5-point Likert scales and open-ended questions. We compared ratings of satisfaction with Choice and VA health care, and identified reasons for satisfaction/dissatisfaction with Choice in a thematic analysis of open-ended qualitative data. RESULTS: Of 195 participants, 35 had not attempted to use Choice; 43 attempted but had not received Choice care (i.e., attempted only); and 117 attempted and received Choice care. Among those who attempted only, a smaller percentage were somewhat/very satisfied with Choice than with VA health care (17.9% and 71.8%, p? < 0.001); among participants who received Choice, similar percentages were somewhat/very satisfied with Choice and VA health care (66.6% and 71.1%, p? = 0.45). When asked what contributed to Choice ratings, participants who attempted but did not receive Choice care reported poor access (50%), scheduling problems (20%), and care coordination issues (10%); participants who received Choice care reported improved access (27%), good quality of care (19%), and good distance to Choice provider (16%). Regardless of receipt of Choice care, most participants expressed interest in using Choice in the future (70-82%). CONCLUSIONS: Access and scheduling barriers contributed to dissatisfaction for Veterans unsuccessfully attempting to use Choice during its initial implementation, whereas improved access and good care contributed to satisfaction for those receiving Choice care. With Veterans' continued interest in using services outside VA facilities, subsequent policy changes should address Veterans' barriers to care.

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