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Rural Veterans' Experiences With Outpatient Care in the Veterans Health Administration Versus Community Care.

Davila H, Rosen AK, Beilstein-Wedel E, Shwartz M, Chatelain L, Gurewich D. Rural Veterans' Experiences With Outpatient Care in the Veterans Health Administration Versus Community Care. Medical care. 2021 Jun 1; 59(Suppl 3):S286-S291.

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BACKGROUND: The 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act was intended to improve Veterans'' access to timely health care by expanding their options to receive community care (CC) paid for by the Veterans Health Administration (VA). Although CC could particularly benefit rural Veterans, we know little about rural Veterans'' experiences with CC. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare rural Veterans'' experiences with CC and VA outpatient health care services to those of urban Veterans and examine changes over time. RESEARCH DESIGN: Retrospective, cross-sectional study using data from the Survey of Healthcare Experiences of Patients (SHEP) and VA Corporate Data Warehouse. Subjects: All Veterans who responded to the SHEP survey in Fiscal Year (FY) 16 or FY19. MEASURES: Outcomes were 4 measures of care experience (Access, Communication, Coordination, and Provider Rating). Independent variables included care setting (CC/VA), rural/urban status, and demographic and clinical characteristics. RESULTS: Compared with urban Veterans, rural Veterans rated CC the same (for specialty care) or better (for primary care). Rural Veterans reported worse experiences in CC versus VA, except for specialty care Access. Rural Veterans'' care experiences improved between FY16 and FY19 in both CC and VA, with greater improvements in CC. CONCLUSIONS: Rural Veterans'' reported comparable or better experiences in CC compared with urban Veterans, but rural Veterans'' CC experiences still lagged behind their experiences in VA for primary care. As growing numbers of Veterans use CC, VA should ensure that rural and urban Veterans'' experiences with CC are at least comparable to their experiences with VA care.

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