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Veterans' Experiences With Outpatient Care: Comparing The Veterans Affairs System With Community-Based Care.

Vanneman ME, Wagner TH, Shwartz M, Meterko M, Francis J, Greenstone CL, Rosen AK. Veterans' Experiences With Outpatient Care: Comparing The Veterans Affairs System With Community-Based Care. Health affairs (Project Hope). 2020 Aug 1; 39(8):1368-1376.

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Timely access to outpatient care was a primary driver behind the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA's) increased purchase of community-based care under the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, known as the Choice Act. To compare veterans' experiences in VA-delivered and community-based outpatient care after implementation of the act, we assessed veterans' scores on four dimensions of experience-access, communication, coordination, and provider rating-for outpatient specialty, primary, and mental health care received during 2016-17. Patient experiences were better for VA than for community care in all respects except access. For specialty care, access scores were better in the community; for primary and mental health care, access scores were similar in the two settings. Although all specialty care scores and the primary care coordination score improved over time, the gaps between settings did not shrink. As purchased care further expands under the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, which replaced the Choice Act in 2019, monitoring of meaningful differences between settings should continue, with the results used to inform both VA purchasing decisions and patients' care choices.

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