VA may top other hospitals in quality but not patient satisfaction | Reuters

(Reuters Health) – Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals in the U.S. may deliver higher quality care than other medical centers but still get lower marks on patient satisfaction, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined data for 129 VA and 4,010 non-VA hospitals nationwide and found the VA had lower rates of six complications tied to quality: pressure ulcers, deaths of surgical patients with serious treatable conditions, care-related lung injuries, clots in the vein in surgical patients, catheter-related bloodstream infections, post-operative bloodstream infections and post-operative surgical wound ruptures. Rates of other complications tied to quality were similar at VA and non-VA hospitals.

For some common medical problems, the VA also had lower mortality rates and lower rates of repeat hospitalizations than other hospitals, the study found.

But when it came to several measures of patient satisfaction like doctors’ and nurses’ communication skills and pain management, the VA lagged behind.

“The VA certainly looks good on many of these measures, but they definitely have room for improvement regarding the patient experience,” said senior study author Dr. Karl Bilimoria, director of the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Patients at VA hospitals were less likely to recommend VA hospitals to friends or family than patients at non-VA hospitals,” Bilimoria said by email.

The researchers note in JAMA Internal Medicine that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently updated Hospital Compare, a website that helps patients choose where to get care, to include VA hospitals.

For the current study, the study team examined data from Hospital Compare for 2012 to 2015 and from the American Hospital Association’s 2014 annual survey.

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