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Sheahan KL, Goldstein KM, Than CT, Bean-Mayberry B, Chanfreau CC, Gerber MR, Rose DE, Brunner J, Canelo IA, Darling Mshs JE, Haskell S, Hamilton AB, Yano EM. Women Veterans' Healthcare Needs, Utilization, and Preferences in Veterans Affairs Primary Care Settings. Journal of general internal medicine. 2022 Sep 1; 37(Suppl 3):791-798.
BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) is the largest integrated health system in the US and provides access to comprehensive primary care. Women Veterans are the fastest growing segment of new VA users, yet little is known about the characteristics of those who routinely access VA primary care in general or by age group. OBJECTIVE: Describe healthcare needs, utilization, and preferences of women Veterans who routinely use VA primary care. PARTICIPANTS: 1,391 women Veterans with 3+ primary care visits within the previous year in 12 VA medical centers (including General Primary Care Clinics, General Primary Care Clinics with designated space for women, and Comprehensive Women's Health Centers) in nine states. METHODS: Cross-sectional survey (45% response rate) of sociodemographic characteristics, health status (including chronic disease, mental health, pain, and trauma exposure), utilization, care preferences, and satisfaction. Select utilization data were extracted from administrative data. Analyses were weighted to the population of routine users and adjusted for non-response in total and by age group. KEY RESULTS: While 43% had health coverage only through VA, 62% received all primary care in VA. In the prior year, 56% used VA mental healthcare and 78% used VA specialty care. Common physical health issues included hypertension (42%), elevated cholesterol (39%), pain (35%), and diabetes (16%). Many screened positive for PTSD (41%), anxiety (32%), and depression (27%). Chronic physical and mental health burdens varied by age. Two-thirds (62%) had experienced military sexual trauma. Respondents reported satisfaction with VA women's healthcare and preference for female providers. CONCLUSIONS: Women Veterans who routinely utilize VA primary care have significant multimorbid physical and mental health conditions and trauma histories. Meeting women Veterans' needs across the lifespan will require continued investment in woman-centered primary care, including integrated mental healthcare and emphasis on trauma-informed, age-specific care, guided by women's provider preferences.