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Women Veterans' Attrition from the VA Health Care System.

Chrystal JG, Frayne S, Dyer KE, Moreau JL, Gammage CE, Saechao F, Berg E, Washington DL, Yano EM, Hamilton AB. Women Veterans' Attrition from the VA Health Care System. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2021 Dec 28; 32(2):182-193.

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PURPOSE: Patient attrition from the Veterans Health Administration (VA) health care system could undercut its mission to ensure care for eligible veterans. Attrition of women veterans could exacerbate their minority status and impede systemic efforts to provide high-quality care. We obtained women veterans'' perspectives on why they left or continued to use VA health care. METHODS: A sampling frame of new women veteran VA patients was stratified by those who discontinued (attriters) and those who continued (non-attriters) using VA care. Semistructured interviews were conducted from 2017 to 2018. Transcribed interviews were coded for women''s decision-making, contexts, and recommendations related to health care use. RESULTS: Fifty-one women veterans (25 attriters and 26 non-attriters) completed interviews. Reasons for attrition included challenging patient care experiences (e.g., provider turnover, claim processing challenges) and the availability of private health insurance. Personal experiences with VA care (e.g., gender-specific care) were impactful in women''s decision to use VA. The affordability of VA care was influential for both groups to stay connected to services. More than one-third of women originally categorized as attriters described subsequently reentering or planning to reenter VA care. Suggestions to decrease attrition included increasing outreach, improving access, and continuing to tailor care delivery to women veterans'' needs. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding the drivers of patients'' decisions to use or not use the VA is critical for the development of strategies to improve retention of current patients and optimize health outcomes for veterans. Women veterans described complex reasons why they left or continued using VA, with cost/affordability playing an important role even in considerations of returning to VA after a long hiatus.

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