I saw your recent article about Mr. Ross’s death at the Palo Alto VA. Each death we experience is tragic and my heart certainly goes out to his family in this time. There is likely nothing I could say to ease their pain right now.
However, one thing that I can do is ease the pain of other veterans like Mr. Ross. While every institution has room to improve, I want to provide a bit of background information that I think is missing from the discussion of VA healthcare these days. I’m a researcher, with a focus on health and wellness, and the role of systems in promoting health improvement. I run a non-profit, Open Source Wellness, focused on using the power of community to transform health behaviors, and I have researched the VA, examining the quality of care provided there.
Overall, the data on the VA are quite clear. They demonstrate that, taken as a whole, the VA provides as good or better care than non-VA hospitals, it provides this care to a more elderly, more ill population, and it does so for less money than it would cost in the community. I imagine this sounds like a striking statement to make – it’s very at odds with what we’re hearing these days. However, it’s quite well documented:
This is a short overview of the literature, summarizing the research available comparing VA and non-VA care. It shows the bulk of studies find the VA does a better job of adhering to treatment guidelines, has better outcomes in outpatient care (e.g., primary care, diabetes care), and has comparable outcomes in inpatient care (e.g., surgery).
Here is a recent, thorough review comparing the quality of care between VA hospitals and non-VA hospitals. They found that, across 36 studies in general, though there were a few exceptions, VA hospitals provided as good or better care than non-VA hospitals.
Here is another comprehensive review of the quality of care between VA hospitals and non-VA facilities. It’s quite thorough, documenting over 50 comparing VA to non-VA care, with similar outcomes.
I hope you’ll take the time to examine the data on VA healthcare. Our Veterans depend on the high quality care the VA provides. Stories that suggest community care is better than VA care perpetuate a myth that threatens the healthcare that our Veterans not only depend on, but when asked, prefer.
Thanks for your time,
Ben Emmert-Aronson, Ph.D.