To evaluate the impact of a locally adapted evidence-based quality improvement (EBQI) approach to implementation of smoking cessation guidelines into routine practice.
Data Sources/Study Setting
We used patient questionnaires, practice surveys, and administrative data in Veterans Health Administration (VA) primary care practices across five southwestern states.
In a group-randomized trial of 18 VA facilities, matched on size and academic affiliation, we evaluated intervention practices’ abilities to implement evidence-based smoking cessation care following structured evidence review, local priority setting, quality improvement plan development, practice facilitation, expert feedback, and monitoring. Control practices received mailed guidelines and VA audit-feedback reports as usual care.
To represent the population of primary care-based smokers, we randomly sampled and screened 36,445 patients to identify and enroll eligible smokers at baseline (n = 1,941) and follow-up at 12 months (n = 1,080). We used computer-assisted telephone interviewing to collect smoking behavior, nicotine dependence, readiness to change, health status, and patient sociodemographics. We used practice surveys to measure structure and process changes, and administrative data to assess population utilization patterns.
Intervention practices adopted multifaceted EBQI plans, but had difficulty implementing them, ultimately focusing on smoking cessation clinic referral strategies. While attendance rates increased (p<.0001), we found no intervention effect on smoking cessation.
EBQI stimulated practices to increase smoking cessation clinic referrals and try other less evidence-based interventions that did not translate into improved quit rates at a population level.
Smoking cessation; quality of health care; veterans
The promise of widespread implementation of efficacious interventions across the cancer continuum into routine practice and policy has yet to be realized. Multilevel influences, such as communities and families surrounding patients or health-care policies and organizations surrounding provider teams, may determine whether effective interventions are successfully implemented. Greater recognition of the importance of these influences in advancing (or hindering) the impact of single-level interventions has motivated the design and testing of multilevel interventions designed to address them. However, implementing research evidence from single- or multilevel interventions into sustainable routine practice and policy presents substantive challenges. Furthermore, relatively few multilevel interventions have been conducted along the cancer care continuum, and fewer still have been implemented, disseminated, or sustained in practice. The purpose of this chapter is, therefore, to illustrate and examine the concepts underlying the implementation and spread of multilevel interventions into routine practice and policy. We accomplish this goal by using a series of cancer and noncancer examples that have been successfully implemented and, in some cases, spread widely. Key concepts across these examples include the importance of phased implementation, recognizing the need for pilot testing, explicit engagement of key stakeholders within and between each intervention level; visible and consistent leadership and organizational support, including financial and human resources; better understanding of the policy context, fiscal climate, and incentives underlying implementation; explication of handoffs from researchers to accountable individuals within and across levels; ample integration of multilevel theories guiding implementation and evaluation; and strategies for long-term monitoring and sustainability.
Increasingly, primary care practices include nurse practitioners (NPs) in their staffing mix to contain costs and expand primary care. To achieve these aims in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers (VAMCs), national policy endorsed involvement of NPs as primary care (PC) providers.
To evaluate the degree to which VAMCs incorporated NPs into PC practices between 1996 and 1999, and to identify the internal and external practice environment features associated with NP use.
We surveyed 131 PC directors of all VAMCs in 1996 and 1999 to ascertain the staffing and characteristics of the PC practice and parent organization (e.g., academic affiliation, level of physician staffing, use of managed care arrangements), and drew on previously published studies and HRSA State Health Workforce Profiles to characterize each practice's regional health care environment (e.g., geographic region, state NP practice laws, state managed care penetration). Using multivariate linear regression, we evaluate the contribution of these environmental and organizational factors on the number of NPs/10,000 PC patients in 1999, controlling for the rate of NP use in 1996.
From 1996–1999, NP use increased from 75 percent to 90 percent in VA PC practices. The mean number of NPs per practice increased by about 60 percent (2.0 versus 3.2; p<.001), while the rate of NPs/10,000 PC patients trended upward (2.2 versus 2.7; p=.09). Staffing of other primary care clinicians (e.g., physicians and physician assistants per practice) remained stable, while the NP-per-physician rate increased (0.2 versus 0.4; p<.001). After multivariate adjustment, greater reliance on managed-care-oriented provider education programs (p=.02), the presence of NP training programs (p=.05), and more specialty-trained physicians/10,000 PC patients (p=.09) were associated with greater NP involvement in primary care.
Staffing models in VA PC practices have, in fact, changed, with NPs having a greater presence. However, we found substantial practice-based variations in their use, suggesting that more research is needed to better understand how they have been integrated into practice and what impact their involvement has had on the VA's ability to achieve its restructuring goals.
Nurse practitioner; primary care staffing; practice characteristics; environmental characteristics
As the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) reorganizes providers into the patient-centered medical home, questions remain whether this model of care can demonstrate improved patient outcomes and cost savings.
We measured adoption of medical home features by VHA primary care clinics prior to widespread implementation of the patient-centered medical home and examined if they were associated with lower risk and costs of potentially avoidable hospitalizations.
Secondary patient data was linked to clinic administrative and survey data. Patient and clinic factors in the baseline year (FY2009) were used to predict patient outcomes in the follow-up year.
2,853,030 patients from 814 VHA primary care clinics
Patient outcomes were measured by hospitalizations for an ambulatory care sensitive condition (ACSC) and their costs and identified through diagnosis and procedure codes from inpatient records. Clinic adoption of medical home features was obtained from the American College of Physicians Medical Home Builder®.
The overall mean home builder score in the study clinics was 88 (SD = 13) or 69 %. In adjusted analyses an increase of 10 points in the medical home adoption score in a clinic decreased the odds of an ACSC hospitalization for patients by 3 % (P = 0.032). By component, higher access and scheduling (P = 0.004) and care coordination and transitions (P = 0.020) component scores were related to lower risk of an ACSC hospitalization, and higher population management was related to higher risk (P = 0.023). Total medical home features was not related to ACSC hospitalization costs among patients with at least one (P = 0.074).
Greater adoption of medical home features by VHA primary care clinics was found to be significantly associated with lower risk of avoidable hospitalizations with access and scheduling and care coordination/transitions in care as key factors.
medical home; avoidable hospitalizations; access; care coordination
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common in women veterans (WVs), and associated with significant co-morbidity. Effective treatment is available; however, PTSD is often unrecognized.
Identify PTSD prevalence and mental healthcare (MHC) use in a representative national WV sample.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
Cross-sectional, population-based 2008–2009 national survey of 3,611 WVs, weighted to the population.
We screened for PTSD using a validated instrument, and also assessed demographic characteristics, health characteristics, and MHC use in the prior 12 months. Among those screening positive, we conducted multivariate logistic regression to identify independent predictors of MHC use.
Overall, 13.0 % (95 % confidence interval [CI] 9.8–16.2) of WVs screened PTSD-positive. Veterans Health Administration (VA) healthcare was used by 31.1 % of PTSD-positives and 11.4 % of PTSD-negatives (p < 0.001). Among those screening positive, 48.7 % (95 % CI 35.9–61.6) used MHC services (66.3 % of VA-users, 40.8 % of VA-nonusers; p < 0.001). Having a diagnosis of depression (OR = 8.6; 95 % CI 1.5–48.9) and VA healthcare use (OR = 2.7; 95 % CI 1.1–7.0) predicted MHC use, whereas lacking a regular provider for health care (OR = 0.2; 95 % CI 0.1–0.4) and household income below the federal poverty level (OR = 0.2; 95 % CI 0.1–0.5) predicted nonuse.
More than one in eight WVs screened positive for PTSD. Though a majority of VA-users received MHC, low income predicted nonuse. Only a minority of VA-nonusers received MHC. The majority of WVs use non-VA healthcare providers, who may be unaware of their veteran status and PTSD risk. VA outreach to educate VA-nonusers and their healthcare providers about WVs’ PTSD risk and available evidence-based VA treatment options is one approach to extend the reach of VA MHC. Research to characterize barriers to VA MHC use for VA-nonusers and low income VA-users is warranted to better understand low service utilization, and to inform program development to engage more WVs in needed MHC.
post-traumatic stress disorder; women; veterans; mental health services; utilization; Veterans hospitals
While there has been extensive research into patient-specific predictors of medication adherence and patient-specific interventions to improve adherence, there has been little examination of variation in clinic-level medication adherence.
We examined the clinic-level variation of oral hypoglycemic agent (OHA) medication adherence among patients with diabetes treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care clinics. We hypothesized that there would be systematic variation in clinic-level adherence measures, and that adherence within organizationally-affiliated clinics, such as those sharing local management and support, would be more highly correlated than adherence between unaffiliated clinics.
Retrospective cohort study.
VA hospital and VA community-based primary care clinics in the contiguous 48 states.
444,418 patients with diabetes treated with OHAs and seen in 158 hospital-based clinics and 401 affiliated community primary care clinics during fiscal years 2006 and 2007.
Refill-based medication adherence to OHA.
Adjusting for patient characteristics, the proportion of patients adherent to OHAs ranged from 57 % to 81 % across clinics. Adherence between organizationally affiliated clinics was high (Pearson Correlation = 0.82), and adherence between unaffiliated clinics was low (Pearson Correlation = 0.04).
The proportion of patients adherent to OHAs varied widely across VA primary care clinics. Clinic-level adherence was highly correlated to other clinics in the same organizational unit. Further research should identify which factors common to affiliated clinics influence medication adherence.
pharmacoepidemiology; health services research; diabetes; veterans; primary care
Healthcare systems and their primary care practices are redesigning to achieve goals identified in Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) models such as Veterans Affairs (VA)’s Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT). Implementation of these models, however, requires major transformation. Evidence-Based Quality Improvement (EBQI) is a multi-level approach for supporting organizational change and innovation spread.
To describe EBQI as an approach for promoting VA’s PACT and to assess initial implementation of planned EBQI elements.
Regional and local interdisciplinary clinical leaders, patient representatives, Quality Council Coordinators, practicing primary care clinicians and staff, and researchers from six demonstration site practices in three local healthcare systems in one VA region.
EBQI promotes bottom-up local innovation and spread within top-down organizational priorities. EBQI innovations are supported by a research-clinical partnership, use continuous quality improvement methods, and are developed in regional demonstration sites.
We developed a logic model for EBQI for PACT (EBQI-PACT) with inputs, outputs, and expected outcomes. We describe implementation of logic model outputs over 18 months, using qualitative data from 84 key stakeholders (104 interviews from two waves) and review of study documents.
Nearly all implementation elements of the EBQI-PACT logic model were fully or partially implemented. Elements not fully achieved included patient engagement in Quality Councils (4/6) and consistent local primary care practice interdisciplinary leadership (4/6). Fourteen of 15 regionally approved innovation projects have been completed, three have undergone initial spread, five are prepared to spread, and two have completed toolkits that have been pretested in two to three sites and are now ready for external spread.
EBQI-PACT has been feasible to implement in three participating healthcare systems in one VA region. Further development of methods for engaging patients in care design and for promoting interdisciplinary leadership is needed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2703-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
quality improvement; primary care; patient-centered medical home; logic model; interdisciplinary leadership
To identify primary care practice characteristics associated with colorectal cancer (CRC) screening performance, controlling for patient-level factors.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Primary care director survey (1999–2000) of 155 VA primary care clinics linked with 38,818 eligible patients' sociodemographics, utilization, and CRC screening experience using centralized administrative and chart-review data (2001).
Practices were characterized by degrees of centralization (e.g., authority over operations, staffing, outside-practice influence); resources (e.g., sufficiency of nonphysician staffing, space, clinical support arrangements); and complexity (e.g., facility size, academic status, managed care penetration), adjusting for patient-level covariates and contextual factors.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Chart-based evidence of CRC screening through direct colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or consecutive fecal occult blood tests, eliminating cases with documented histories of CRC, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease.
After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and health care utilization, patients were significantly more likely to be screened for CRC if their primary care practices had greater autonomy over the internal structure of care delivery (p<.04), more clinical support arrangements (p < .03), and smaller size (p < .001).
Deficits in primary care clinical support arrangements and local autonomy over operational management and referral procedures are associated with significantly lower CRC screening performance. Competition with hospital resource demands may impinge on the degree of internal organization of their affiliated primary care practices.
Primary health care; colorectal cancer; prevention; quality of health care; veterans
Depression management can be challenging for primary care (PC) settings. While several evidence-based models exist for depression care, little is known about the relationships between PC practice characteristics, model characteristics, and the practice’s choices regarding model adoption.
We examined three Veterans Affairs (VA)-endorsed depression care models and tested the relationships between theoretically-anchored measures of organizational readiness and implementation of the models in VA PC clinics.
1) Qualitative assessment of the three VA-endorsed depression care models, 2) Cross-sectional survey of leaders from 225 VA medium-to-large PC practices, both in 2007.
We assessed PC readiness factors related to resource adequacy, motivation for change, staff attributes, and organizational climate. As outcomes, we measured implementation of one of the VA-endorsed models: collocation, Translating Initiatives in Depression into Effective Solutions (TIDES), and Behavioral Health Lab (BHL). We performed bivariate and, when possible, multivariate analyses of readiness factors for each model.
Collocation is a relatively simple arrangement with a mental health specialist physically located in PC. TIDES and BHL are more complex; they use standardized assessments and care management based on evidence-based collaborative care principles, but with different organizational requirements. By 2007, 107 (47.5 %) clinics had implemented collocation, 39 (17.3 %) TIDES, and 17 (7.6 %) BHL. Having established quality improvement processes (OR 2.30, [1.36, 3.87], p = 0.002) or a depression clinician champion (OR 2.36, [1.14, 4.88], p = 0.02) was associated with collocation. Being located in a VA regional network that endorsed TIDES (OR 8.42, [3.69, 19.26], p < 0.001) was associated with TIDES implementation. The presence of psychologists or psychiatrists on PC staff, greater financial sufficiency, or greater spatial sufficiency was associated with BHL implementation.
Both readiness factors and characteristics of depression care models influence model adoption. Greater model simplicity may make collocation attractive within local quality improvement efforts. Dissemination through regional networks may be effective for more complex models such as TIDES.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2217-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
primary care; mental health; depression; collaborative care; implementation; readiness
Alcohol problems may impede adaptive, proactive responses to disaster-related injury and loss, thus prolonging the adverse impact of disasters on mental health. Previous work suggests that veterans of the U.S. armed forces have a relatively high prevalence of alcohol misuse and other psychiatric disorders. This is the first study to estimate the impact of pre-disaster alcohol problems on post-disaster depressed mood among veterans, using data that were collected before and after the 1994 Northridge, California earthquake. We assessed the impact of alcohol problems on post-disaster depressed mood in an existing clinical cohort of veterans who experienced the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that struck Northridge in January 1994. One-to-three months after the disaster, interviewers contacted participants by telephone to administer a follow-up questionnaire based on a survey that had been done pre-earthquake. Post-earthquake data were obtained on 1144 male veterans for whom there were pre-earthquake data. We tested a predictive path model of the relationships between latent variables for pre-disaster alcohol problems, functional limitations, and depressed mood on latent variables representing post-disaster “quake impact” and depressive mood. Results showed that veterans who had more alcohol problems before the earthquake experienced more earthquake-related harms and severely depressed mood after the earthquake, compared with those who had fewer alcohol problems. Programs serving veterans with a high prevalence of alcohol problems should consider designing disaster response protocols to locate and assist these patients in the aftermath of disasters.
alcohol; disasters; mental health; structural equation modeling; longitudinal studies
The expansion of women in the military is reshaping the veteran population, with women now constituting the fastest growing segment of eligible VA health care users. In recognition of the changing demographics and special health care needs of women, the VA Office of Research & Development recently sponsored the first national VA Women's Health Research Agenda-setting conference to map research priorities to the needs of women veterans and position VA as a national leader in Women's Health Research. This paper summarizes the process and outcomes of this effort, outlining VA's research priorities for biomedical, clinical, rehabilitation, and health services research.
women's health; research and development; research priorities; veterans; health care quality; access and evaluation
Many lesbian and bisexual (LB) women veterans may have been targets of victimization in the military based on their gender and presumed sexual orientation, and yet little is known regarding the health or mental health of LB veterans, nor the degree to which they feel comfortable receiving care in the VA.
The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of mental health and gender-specific conditions, VA healthcare satisfaction and trauma exposure among LB veterans receiving VA care compared with heterosexually-identified women veterans receiving.
Prospective cohort study of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) women veterans at two large VA facilities.
Three hundred and sixty five women veterans that completed a baseline survey. Thirty-five veterans (9.6 %) identified as gay or lesbian (4.7 %), or bisexual (4.9 %).
Measures included sexual orientation, military sexual trauma, mental and gender-specific health diagnoses, and VA healthcare utilization and satisfaction.
LB OEF/OIF veterans were significantly more likely to have experienced both military and childhood sexual trauma than heterosexual women (MST: 31 % vs. 13 %, p < .001; childhood sexual trauma: 60 % vs. 36 %, p = .01), to be hazardous drinkers (32 % vs. 16 %, p = .03) and rate their current mental health as worse than before deployment (35 % vs. 16 %, p < .001).
Many LB veterans have experienced sexual victimization, both within the military and as children, and struggle with substance abuse and poor mental health. Health care providers working with female Veterans should be aware of high rates of military sexual trauma and childhood abuse and refer women to appropriate VA treatment and support groups for sequelae of these experiences. Future research should focus on expanding this study to include a larger and more diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans receiving care at VA facilities across the country.
lesbian; health services research; Veterans; women
The number of women Veterans (WVs) utilizing the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has doubled over the past decade, heightening the importance of understanding their healthcare delivery preferences and utilization patterns. Other studies have identified healthcare issues and behaviors of WVs in specific military service eras (e.g., Vietnam), but delivery preferences and utilization have not been examined within and across eras on a population basis.
To identify healthcare delivery preferences and healthcare use of WVs by military service era to inform program design and patient-centeredness.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
Cross-sectional 2008–2009 survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,611 WVs, weighted to the population.
Healthcare delivery preferences measured as importance of selected healthcare features; types of healthcare services and number of visits used; use of VA or non-VA; all by military service era.
Military service era differences were present in types of healthcare used, with World War II and Korea era WVs using more specialty care, and Vietnam era-to-present WVs using more women’s health and mental health care. Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) WVs made more healthcare visits than WVs of earlier military eras. The greatest healthcare delivery concerns were location convenience for Vietnam and earlier WVs, and cost for Gulf War 1 and OEF/OIF/OND WVs. Co-located gynecology with general healthcare was also rated important by a sizable proportion of WVs from all military service eras.
Our findings point to the importance of ensuring access to specialty services closer to home for WVs, which may require technology-supported care. Younger WVs’ higher mental health care use reinforces the need for integration and coordination of primary care, reproductive health and mental health care.
women Veterans; VA healthcare; health services need; health services utilization; health care preferences
More women are using Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA) Emergency Departments (EDs), yet VHA ED capacities to meet the needs of women are unknown.
We assessed VHA ED resources and processes for conditions specific to, or more common in, women Veterans.
Cross-sectional questionnaire of the census of VHA ED directors
Resources and processes in place for gynecologic, obstetric, sexual assault and mental health care, as well as patient privacy features, stratified by ED characteristics.
All 120 VHA EDs completed the questionnaire. Approximately nine out of ten EDs reported having gynecologic examination tables within their EDs, 24/7 access to specula, and Gonorrhea/Chlamydia DNA probes. All EDs reported 24/7 access to pregnancy testing. Fewer than two-fifths of EDs reported having radiologist review of pelvic ultrasound images available 24/7; one-third reported having emergent consultations from gynecologists available 24/7. Written transfer policies specific to gynecologic and obstetric emergencies were reported as available in fewer than half of EDs. Most EDs reported having emergency contraception 24/7; however, only approximately half reported having Rho(D) Immunoglobulin available 24/7. Templated triage notes and standing orders relevant to gynecologic conditions were reported as uncommon. Consistent with VHA policy, most EDs reported obtaining care for victims of sexual assault by transferring them to another institution. Most EDs reported having some access to private medical and mental health rooms. Resources and processes were found to be more available in EDs with more encounters by women, more ED staffed beds, and that were located in more complex facilities in metropolitan areas.
Although most VHA EDs have resources and processes needed for delivering emergency care to women Veterans, some gaps exist. Studies in non-VA EDs are required for comparison. Creative solutions are needed to ensure that women presenting to VHA EDs receive efficient, timely, and consistently high-quality care.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2327-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
veterans’ health; women’s health; emergency medicine; organization of care
With the increasing number of women Veterans enrolling in the Veterans Health Administration (VA), there is growing demand for reproductive health services. Little is known regarding the on-site availability of reproductive health services at VA and how this varies by site location and type.
To describe the on-site availability of hormonal contraception, intrauterine device (IUD) placement, infertility evaluation or treatment, and prenatal care by site location and type; the characteristics of sites providing these services; and to determine whether, within this context, site location and type is associated with on-site availability of these reproductive health services.
We used data from the 2007 Veterans Health Administration Survey of Women Veterans Health Programs and Practices, a national census of VA sites serving 300 or more women Veterans assessing practice structure and provision of care for women. Hierarchical models were used to test whether site location and type (metropolitan hospital-based clinic, non-metropolitan hospital-based clinic, metropolitan community-based outpatient clinic [CBOC]) were associated with availability of IUD placement and infertility evaluation/treatment. Non-metropolitan CBOCs were excluded from this analysis (n = 2).
Of 193 sites, 182 (94 %) offered on-site hormonal contraception, 97 (50 %) offered on-site IUD placement, 57 (30 %) offered on-site infertility evaluation/treatment, and 11 (6 %) offered on-site prenatal care. After adjustment, compared with metropolitan hospital based-clinics, metropolitan CBOCs were less likely to offer on-site IUD placement (OR 0.33; 95 % CI 0.14, 0.74).
Compared with metropolitan hospital-based clinics, metropolitan CBOCs offer fewer specialized reproductive health services on-site. Additional research is needed regarding delivery of specialized reproductive health care services for women Veterans in CBOCs and clinics in non-metropolitan areas.
women veterans; reproductive health; reproductive health services; Department of Veterans Affairs
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for 24.5 % of all deaths among women. Earlier research has demonstrated racial/ethnic differences in prevalence of cardiovascular (CVD) risk factors.
To empirically examine the prevalence of CVD risk factors among a national sample of women Veterans by race/ethnicity, providing the first portrait of women Veterans’ cardiovascular care needs.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
Cross-sectional, national population-based telephone survey of 3,611 women Veterans.
Women Veterans were queried about presence of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, tobacco use and physical activity. Four racial/ethnic categories were created: Hispanic, Non-Hispanic White (White), Non-Hispanic Black (Black), and Other. Logistic regressions were conducted for each risk factor to test for racial/ethnic differences, controlling for age (under 40 vs. 40 and over).
Racial/ethnic differences in CVD risk factors persisted after adjusting for age. Black women Veterans were more likely to report a diagnosis of diabetes (OR: 2.58, 95 % CI: 1.07, 6.21) or hypertension (OR: 2.31, 95 % CI: 1.10, 4.83) and be obese (OR: 2.06, 95 % CI: 1.05, 3.91) than White women Veterans. Hispanic women Veterans were more likely than White women Veterans to report diabetes (OR: 4.20, 95 % CI: 1.15, 15.39) and daily smoking (OR: 3.38, 95 % CI: 1.01, 11.30), but less likely to report a hypertension diagnosis (OR 0.21, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.64) or to be obese (OR: 0.39, 95 % CI: 0.18, 0.81).
Among women Veterans, CVD risks vary by race/ethnicity. Black women Veterans consistently face higher CVD risk compared to White women Veterans, while results are mixed for Hispanic women Veterans.
cardiovascular disease; risk factors; race; ethnicity; women veterans
women’s health; veterans; implementation research; quality improvement
Although guidelines recommend against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening in elderly men with limited life expectancy, screening is common.
We sought to identify medical center characteristics associated with screening in this population.
We conducted a prospective study of 622,262 screen-eligible men aged 70+ seen at 104 VA medical centers in 2003.
Primary outcome was the percentage of men at each center who received PSA screening in 2003, based on VA data and Medicare claims. Men were stratified into life expectancy groups ranging from favorable (age 70–79 with Charlson score = 0) to limited (age 85+ with Charlson score ≥1 or age 70+ with Charlson score ≥4). Medical center characteristics were obtained from the 1999–2000 VA Survey of Primary Care Practices and publicly available VA data sources.
Among 123,223 (20%) men with limited life expectancy, 45% received PSA screening in 2003. Across 104 VAs, the PSA screening rate among men with limited life expectancy ranged from 25-79% (median 43%). Higher screening was associated with the following center characteristics: no academic affiliation (50% vs. 43%, adjusted RR = 1.14, 95% CI 1.04–1.25), a ratio of midlevel providers to physicians ≥3:4 (55% vs. 45%, adjusted RR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.09–1.32) and location in the South (49% vs. 39% in the West, adjusted RR = 1.25, 95% CI 1.12–1.40). Use of incentives and high scores on performance measures were not independently associated with screening. Within centers, the percentages of men screened with limited and favorable life expectancies were highly correlated (r = 0.90).
Substantial practice variation exists for PSA screening in older men with limited life expectancy across VAs. The high center-specific correlation of screening among men with limited and favorable life expectancies indicates that PSA screening is poorly targeted according to life expectancy.
PSA screening; regional variation; elderly; life expectancy
Many patients who should be treated for depression are missed without effective routine screening in primary care (PC) settings. Yearly depression screening by PC staff is mandated in the VA, yet little is known about the expected yield from such screening when administered on a practice-wide basis.
We characterized the yield of practice-based screening in diverse PC settings, as well as the care needs of those assessed as having depression.
Baseline enrollees in a group randomized trial of implementation of collaborative care for depression.
Randomly sampled patients with a scheduled PC appointment in ten VA primary care clinics spanning five states.
PHQ-2 screening followed by the full PHQ-9 for screen positives, with standardized sociodemographic and health status questions.
Practice-based screening of 10,929 patients yielded 20.1% positive screens, 60% of whom were assessed as having probable major depression based on the PHQ-9 (11.8% of all screens) (n = 1,313). In total, 761 patients with probable major depression completed the baseline assessment. Comorbid mental illnesses (e.g., anxiety, PTSD) were highly prevalent. Medical comorbidities were substantial, including chronic lung disease, pneumonia, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, cancer and stroke. Nearly one-third of the depressed PC patients reported recent suicidal ideation (based on the PHQ-9). Sexual dysfunction was also common (73.3%), being both longstanding (95.1% with onset >6 months) and frequently undiscussed and untreated (46.7% discussed with any health care provider in past 6 months).
Practice-wide survey-based depression screening yielded more than twice the positive-screen rate demonstrated through chart-based VA performance measures. The substantial level of comorbid physical and mental illness among PC patients precludes solo management by either PC or mental health (MH) specialists. PC practice- and provider-level guideline adherence is problematic without systems-level solutions supporting adequate MH assessment, PC treatment and, when needed, appropriate MH referral.
depression; screening; primary care; health care delivery; veterans
Although oral hypoglycemic agents (OHAs) are an essential element of therapy for the management of type 2 diabetes, OHA adherence is often suboptimal. Pharmacists are increasingly being integrated into primary care as part of the move towards a patient-centered medical home and may have a positive influence on medication use. We examined whether the presence of pharmacists in primary care clinics was associated with higher OHA adherence.
This retrospective cohort study analyzed 280,603 diabetes patients in 196 primary care clinics within the Veterans Affairs healthcare system. Pharmacists presence, number of pharmacist full-time equivalents (FTEs), and the degree to which pharmacy services are perceived as a bottleneck in each clinic were obtained from the 2007 VA Clinical Practice Organizational Survey—Primary Care Director Module. Patient-level adherence to OHAs using medication possession ratios (MPRs) were constructed using refill data from administrative pharmacy databases after adjusting for patient characteristics. Clinic-level OHA adherence was measured as the proportion of patients with MPR >= 80%. We analyzed associations between pharmacy measures and clinic-level adherence using linear regression.
We found no significant association between pharmacist presence and clinic-level OHA adherence. However, adherence was lower in clinics where pharmacy services were perceived as a bottleneck.
Pharmacist presence, regardless of the amount of FTE, was not associated with OHA medication adherence in primary care clinics. The exact role of pharmacists in clinics needs closer examination in order to determine how to most effectively use these resources to improve patient-centered outcomes including medication adherence.
Pharmacist; Medication adherence; Diabetes mellitus; Oral hypoglycemic agent; Patient-centered medical home
Timely access to healthcare is essential to ensuring optimal health outcomes, and not surprisingly, is at the heart of healthcare reform efforts. While the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has made improved access a priority, women veterans still underutilize VA healthcare relative to men. Eliminating access disparities requires a better understanding of the barriers to care that women veterans’ experience.
We examined the association of general and veteran-specific barriers on access to healthcare among women veterans.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
Cross-sectional, population-based national telephone survey of 3,611 women veterans.
Delayed healthcare or unmet healthcare need in the prior 12 months.
Of women veterans, 19% had delayed healthcare or unmet need, with higher rates in younger age groups (36%, 29%, 16%, 7%, respectively, in 18–34, 35–49, 50–64, and 65-plus age groups; p < 0.001). Among those delaying or going without care, barriers that varied by age group were: unaffordable healthcare (63% of 18–34 versus 12% of 65-plus age groups); inability to take off from work (39% of those <50); and transportation difficulties (36% of 65-plus). Controlling for age, race/ethnicity, regular source of care, and health status, being uninsured (OR = 6.5; confidence interval [CI] 3.0–14.0), knowledge gaps about VA care (OR = 2.1; 95% CI 1.1–4.0), perception that VA providers are not gender-sensitive (OR = 2.4; CI 1.2–4.7), and military sexual assault history (OR = 2.1; CI 1.1–4.0) predicted delaying or foregoing care, whereas VA use and enrollment priority did not.
Both general and veteran-specific factors impact women veterans’ access to needed services. Many of the identified access barriers are potentially modifiable through expanded VA healthcare and social services. Health reform efforts should address these barriers for VA nonusers. Efforts are also warranted to improve women veterans’ knowledge of availability and affordability of VA healthcare, and to enhance the gender-sensitivity of this care.
access to care; women veterans; VA healthcare; health services need; health services utilization
Automated reporting of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) is a recent advance in laboratory information technology (IT) that generates a measure of kidney function with chemistry laboratory results to aid early detection of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Because accurate diagnosis of CKD is critical to optimal medical decision-making, several clinical practice guidelines have recommended the use of automated eGFR reporting. Since its introduction, automated eGFR reporting has not been uniformly implemented by U. S. laboratories despite the growing prevalence of CKD. CKD is highly prevalent within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and implementation of automated eGFR reporting within this integrated healthcare system has the potential to improve care. In July 2004, the VHA adopted automated eGFR reporting through a system-wide mandate for software implementation by individual VHA laboratories. This study examines the timing of software implementation by individual VHA laboratories and factors associated with implementation.
We performed a retrospective observational study of laboratories in VHA facilities from July 2004 to September 2009. Using laboratory data, we identified the status of implementation of automated eGFR reporting for each facility and the time to actual implementation from the date the VHA adopted its policy for automated eGFR reporting. Using survey and administrative data, we assessed facility organizational characteristics associated with implementation of automated eGFR reporting via bivariate analyses.
Of 104 VHA laboratories, 88% implemented automated eGFR reporting in existing laboratory IT systems by the end of the study period. Time to initial implementation ranged from 0.2 to 4.0 years with a median of 1.8 years. All VHA facilities with on-site dialysis units implemented the eGFR software (52%, p<0.001). Other organizational characteristics were not statistically significant.
The VHA did not have uniform implementation of automated eGFR reporting across its facilities. Facility-level organizational characteristics were not associated with implementation, and this suggests that decisions for implementation of this software are not related to facility-level quality improvement measures. Additional studies on implementation of laboratory IT, such as automated eGFR reporting, could identify factors that are related to more timely implementation and lead to better healthcare delivery.