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1.  Cluster randomized trial of a multilevel evidence-based quality improvement approach to tailoring VA Patient Aligned Care Teams to the needs of women Veterans 
Background
The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has undertaken a major initiative to transform care through implementation of Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs). Based on the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) concept, PACT aims to improve access, continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness using team-based care that is patient-driven and patient-centered. However, how VA should adapt PACT to meet the needs of special populations, such as women Veterans (WVs), was not considered in initial implementation guidance. WVs’ numerical minority in VA healthcare settings (approximately 7–8 % of users) creates logistical challenges to delivering gender-sensitive comprehensive care. The main goal of this study is to test an evidence-based quality improvement approach (EBQI) to tailoring PACT to meet the needs of WVs, incorporating comprehensive primary care services and gender-specific care in gender-sensitive environments, thereby accelerating achievement of PACT tenets for women (Women’s Health (WH)-PACT).
Methods/design
EBQI is a systematic approach to developing a multilevel research-clinical partnership that engages senior organizational leaders and local quality improvement (QI) teams in adapting and implementing new care models in the context of prior evidence and local practice conditions, with researchers providing technical support, formative feedback, and practice facilitation. In a 12-site cluster randomized trial, we will evaluate WH-PACT model achievement using patient, provider, staff, and practice surveys, in addition to analyses of secondary administrative and chart-based data. We will explore impacts of receipt of WH-PACT care on quality of chronic disease care and prevention, health status, patient satisfaction and experience of care, provider experience, utilization, and costs. Using mixed methods, we will assess pre-post practice contexts; document EBQI activities undertaken in participating facilities and their relationship to provider/staff and team actions/attitudes; document WH-PACT implementation; and examine barriers/facilitators to EBQI-supported WH-PACT implementation through a combination of semi-structured interviews and monthly formative progress narratives and administrative data.
Discussion
Lack of gender-sensitive comprehensive care has demonstrated consequences for the technical quality and ratings of care among WVs and may contribute to decisions to continue use or seek care elsewhere under the US Affordable Care Act. We hypothesize that tailoring PACT implementation through EBQI may improve the experience and quality of care at many levels.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02039856
doi:10.1186/s13012-016-0461-z
PMCID: PMC4950741  PMID: 27435723
Implementation; Evidence-based quality improvement; Patient-centered medical home; Women’s health; Veterans
2.  Patient-Centered Mental Health Care for Female Veterans 
Objective
Mental health services for women vary widely across the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system, without consensus on the need for, or organization of, specialized services for women. Understanding women’s needs and priorities is essential to guide the implementation of patient-centered behavioral health services.
Methods
In a cross-sectional, multisite survey of female veterans using primary care, potential stakeholders were identified for VHA mental health services by assessing perceived or observed need for mental health services. These stakeholders (N=484) ranked priorities for mental health care among a wide range of possible services. The investigators then quantified the importance of having designated women’s mental health services for each of the mental health services that emerged as key priorities.
Results
Treatment for depression, pain management, coping with chronic general medical conditions, sleep problems, weight management, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) emerged as women’s key priorities. Having mental health services specialized for women was rated as extremely important to substantial proportions of women for each of the six prioritized services. Preference for primary care colocation was strongly associated with higher importance ratings for designated women’s mental health services. For specific types of services, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, PTSD symptoms, and psychiatric comorbidity were also associated with higher importance ratings for designated women’s services.
Conclusions
Female veterans are a diverse population whose needs and preferences for mental health services vary along demographic and clinical factors. These stakeholder perspectives can help prioritize structural and clinical aspects of designated women’s mental health care in the VHA.
doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201300551
PMCID: PMC4776740  PMID: 25642611
3.  Challenges in Referral Communication Between VHA Primary Care and Specialty Care 
Background
Poor communication between primary care providers (PCPs) and specialists is a significant problem and a detriment to effective care coordination. Inconsistency in the quality of primary–specialty communication persists even in environments with integrated delivery systems and electronic medical records (EMRs), such as the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
Objective
The purpose of this study was to measure ease of communication and to characterize communication challenges perceived by PCPs and primary care personnel in the VHA, with a particular focus on challenges associated with referral communication.
Design
The study utilized a convergent mixed-methods design: online cross-sectional survey measuring PCP-reported ease of communication with specialists, and semi-structured interviews characterizing primary–specialty communication challenges.
Participants
191 VHA PCPs from one regional network were surveyed (54 % response rate), and 41 VHA PCPs and primary care staff were interviewed.
Main Measures/Approach
PCP-reported ease of communication mean score (survey) and recurring themes in participant descriptions of primary–specialty referral communication (interviews) were analyzed.
Key Results
Among PCPs, ease-of-communication ratings were highest for women’s health and mental health (mean score of 2.3 on a scale of 1–3 in both), and lowest for cardiothoracic surgery and neurology (mean scores of 1.3 and 1.6, respectively). Primary care personnel experienced challenges communicating with specialists via the EMR system, including difficulty in communicating special requests for appointments within a certain time frame and frequent rejection of referral requests due to rigid informational requirements. When faced with these challenges, PCPs reported using strategies such as telephone and e-mail contact with specialists with whom they had established relationships, as well as the use of an EMR-based referral innovation called “eConsults” as an alternative to a traditional referral.
Conclusions
Primary–specialty communication is a continuing challenge that varies by specialty and may be associated with the likelihood of an established connection already in place between specialty and primary care. Improvement in EMR systems is needed, with more flexibility for the communication of special requests. Building relationships between PCPs and specialists may also facilitate referral communication.
doi:10.1007/s11606-014-3100-x
PMCID: PMC4351287  PMID: 25410884
primary care; specialty care; communication; electronic health records; veterans
4.  Targeting Primary Care Referrals to Smoking Cessation Clinics Does Not Improve Quit Rates: Implementing Evidence-Based Interventions into Practice 
Health Services Research  2008;43(5 Pt 1):1637-1661.
Objective
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.
Study Design
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.
Data Collection
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.
Principal Findings
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2008.00865.x
PMCID: PMC2653889  PMID: 18522670
Smoking cessation; quality of health care; veterans
5.  Creating a Roadmap for Delivering Gender-sensitive Comprehensive Care for Women Veterans 
Medical Care  2015;53(4 Suppl 1):S156-S164.
Background:
Women Veterans are a significant minority of users of the VA healthcare system, limiting provider and staff experience meeting their needs in environments historically designed for men. The VA is nonetheless committed to ensuring that women Veterans have access to comprehensive care in environments sensitive to their needs.
Objectives:
We sought to determine what aspects of care need to be tailored to the needs of women Veterans in order for the VA to deliver gender-sensitive comprehensive care.
Research Design:
Modified Delphi expert panel process.
Subjects:
Eleven clinicians and social scientists with expertise in women’s health, primary care, and mental health.
Measures:
Importance of tailoring over 100 discrete aspects of care derived from the Institute of Medicine’s definition of comprehensive care and literature-based domains of sex-sensitive care on a 5-point scale.
Results:
Panelists rated over half of the aspects of care as very-to-extremely important (median score 4+) to tailor to the needs of women Veterans. The panel arrived at 14 priority recommendations that broadly encompassed the importance of (1) the design/delivery of services sensitive to trauma histories, (2) adapting to women’s preferences and information needs, and (3) sex awareness and cultural transformation in every facet of VA operations.
Conclusions:
We used expert panel methods to arrive at consensus on top priority recommendations for improving delivery of sex-sensitive comprehensive care in VA settings. Accomplishment of their breadth will require national, regional, and local strategic action and multilevel stakeholder engagement, and will support VA’s national efforts at improving customer service for all Veterans.
doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000000307
PMCID: PMC4379113  PMID: 25767971
comprehensive care; women’s health; sex sensitivity; Veterans
6.  Association between Women Veterans’ Experiences with VA Outpatient Healthcare and Designation as a Women’s Health Provider in Primary Care Clinics 
Background
Women Veterans comprise a small percentage of VA healthcare users. Prior research on women Veterans’ experiences with primary care has focused on VA site differences and not individual provider characteristics. In 2010, the VA established policy requiring the provision of comprehensive women’s healthcare by designated women’s health providers (DWHPs). Little is known about the quality of healthcare delivered by DWHPs and women Veterans’ experience with care from these providers.
Methods
Secondary data were obtained from the VA Survey of Healthcare Experience of Patients (SHEP) using the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) patient-centered medical home (PCMH) survey from March 2012 through February 2013, a survey designed to measure patient experience with care and the DWHPs Assessment of Workforce Capacity (DAWC) that discerns between DWHPs versus non-DWHPs.
Findings
Of the 28,994 surveys mailed to women Veterans, 24,789 were seen by primary care providers and 8,151 women responded to the survey (response rate 32%). A total of 3,147 providers were evaluated by the SHEP-CAHPS-PCMH survey (40%; n=1,267 were DWHPs). In a multivariable model, patients seen by DWHPs (RR=1.02 95% CI=1.01−1.04) reported higher overall experiences with care compared to patients seen by non-DWHPs.
Conclusions
The main finding is that women Veterans’ overall experiences with outpatient healthcare are slightly better for those receiving care from DWHPs compared to those receiving care from non-DWHPs. Our findings have important policy implications for how to continue to improve women Veterans’ experiences. Our work provides support to increase access to DWHPs at VA primary care clinics.
doi:10.1016/j.whi.2014.07.005
PMCID: PMC4740730  PMID: 25442706
women; veterans; experiences with care; primary care
8.  Gestational Diabetes and Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy Among Women Veterans Deployed in Service of Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq 
Journal of Women's Health  2014;23(10):792-800.
Abstract
Objective: To determine the prevalence of gestational diabetes (GDM) and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) among women Veterans using Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maternity benefits previously deployed in service of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND), and whether pregnancy complications were associated with VA use following delivery.
Methods: We identified the study population through linkage with the Department of Defense roster and VA administrative and clinical data. GDM and HDP were identified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes in VA inpatient or outpatient files. Similarly, we constructed a nationally representative sample of deliveries from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. We calculated standardized incidence ratios (SIR) adjusted for age and year of delivery to compare rates of GDM and HDP. Proportional hazards regression was used to determine whether pregnancy complications were associated with use of VA following delivery.
Results: Between 2001 and 2010, 2,288 women OEF/OIF/OND Veterans used VA maternity benefits; 5.2% had GDM and 9.6% had HDP. Compared with women delivering in the United States, women OEF/OIF/OND Veterans using VA maternity benefits had higher risk of developing GDM (SIR: 1.40; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.16, 1.68) and HDP (SIR: 1.32; 95% CI 1.15, 1.51). Among women OEF/OIF/OND Veterans using VA maternity benefits, GDM (HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.83, 1.24) and HDP (HR 1.07, 95% CI 0.92, 1.25) were not associated with use of VA following delivery.
Conclusions: Non-VA providers should be aware of their patients' Veteran status and the associated elevated risk for pregnancy complications. Within VA, focused efforts to optimize Veterans' preconception and postpartum health are needed.
doi:10.1089/jwh.2013.4681
PMCID: PMC4195229  PMID: 25090022
9.  Predictors of Primary Care Management of Depression in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2014;29(7):1017-1025.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
Primary care providers (PCPs) vary in skills to effectively treat depression. Key features of evidence-based collaborative care models (CCMs) include the availability of depression care managers (DCMs) and mental health specialists (MHSs) in primary care. Little is known, however, about the relationships between PCP characteristics, CCM features, and PCP depression care.
OBJECTIVE
To assess relationships between various CCM features, PCP characteristics, and PCP depression management.
DESIGN
Cross-sectional analysis of a provider survey.
PARTICIPANTS
180 PCPs in eight VA sites nationwide.
MAIN MEASURES
Independent variables included scales measuring comfort and difficulty with depression care; collaboration with a MHS; self-reported depression caseload; availability of a collocated MHS, and co-management with a DCM or MHS. Covariates included provider type and gender. For outcomes, we assessed PCP self-reported performance of key depression management behaviors in primary care in the past 6 months.
KEY RESULTS
Response rate was 52 % overall, with 47 % attending physicians, 34 % residents, and 19 % nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Half (52 %) reported greater than eight veterans with depression in their panels and a MHS collocated in primary care (50 %). Seven of the eight clinics had a DCM. In multivariable analysis, significant predictors for PCP depression management included comfort, difficulty, co-management with MHSs and numbers of veterans with depression in their panels.
CONCLUSIONS
PCPs who felt greater ease and comfort in managing depression, co-managed with MHSs, and reported higher depression caseloads, were more likely to report performing depression management behaviors. Neither a collocated MHS, collaborating with a MHS, nor co-managing with a DCM independently predicted PCP depression management. Because the success of collaborative care for depression depends on the ability and willingness of PCPs to engage in managing depression themselves, along with other providers, more research is necessary to understand how to engage PCPs in depression management.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-014-2807-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11606-014-2807-z
PMCID: PMC4061347  PMID: 24567200
primary care; mental health; depression; care management
10.  Challenges Facing Primary Care Practices Aiming to Implement Patient-Centered Medical Homes 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2014;29(Suppl 2):555-562.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
While the potential of patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) is promising, little is known empirically about the frontline challenges that primary care (PC) leaders face before making the decision to implement PCMH, let alone in making it a reality.
OBJECTIVE
Prior to the design and implementation of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VA) national PCMH model—Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT)—we identified the top challenges faced by PC directors and examined the organizational and area level factors that influenced those challenges.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
A national cross-sectional key informant organizational survey was fielded to the census of PC directors at VA medical centers and large community-based outpatient clinics (final sample n = 229 sites).
MAIN MEASURES
PC directors were asked to rate the degree to which they faced 48 management challenges in eight PCMH-related domains (access, preventive care, chronic diseases requiring care in PC, challenging medical conditions, mental health/substance abuse, special populations, PC coordination of care, and clinical informatics). Responses were dichotomized as moderately-to-extremely challenging versus somewhat-slightly-not at all challenging. Items were rank ordered; chi square or regression techniques were used to examine variations in facility size, type, urban/rural location, and region.
KEY RESULTS
On average, VA PC directors reported 16 moderate-to-extreme challenges, and the top 20 challenges spanned all eight PCMH domains. Four of the top 20 challenges, including the top two challenges, were from the clinical informatics domain. Management of chronic non-malignant pain requiring opiate therapy was the third most reported challenge nationwide. Significant organizational and area level variations in reported challenges were found especially for care coordination.
CONCLUSIONS
Better understanding of PC challenges ahead of PCMH implementation provides important context for strategic planning and redesign efforts. As a national healthcare system, the VA provides a unique opportunity to examine organizational and area determinants relevant to other PCMH models.
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2691-y
PMCID: PMC4070226  PMID: 24715394
primary care; patient-centered medical home; Veterans; VA healthcare system; health care management
11.  Delivery of Gender-Sensitive Comprehensive Primary Care to Women Veterans: Implications for VA Patient Aligned Care Teams 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2014;29(Suppl 2):703-707.
ABSTRACT
The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has undertaken a major initiative to transform primary care delivery through implementation of Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs). Based on the patient-centered medical home concept, PACTs aim to improve access, continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness using team-based care that is patient driven and patient centered. However, how PACT principles should be applied to meet the needs of special populations, including women veterans, is not entirely clear. While historical differences in military participation meant women veterans were rarely seen in VA healthcare settings, they now represent the fastest growing segment of new VA users. They also have complex healthcare needs, adding gender-specific services and other needs to the spectrum of services that the VA must deliver. These trends are changing the VA landscape, introducing challenges to how VA care is organized, how VA providers need to be trained, and how VA considers implementation of new initiatives, such as PACT. We briefly describe the evolution of VA primary care delivery for women veterans, review VA policy for delivering gender-sensitive comprehensive primary care for women, and discuss the challenges that women veterans’ needs pose in the context of PACT implementation. We conclude with recommendations for addressing some of these challenges moving forward.
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2699-3
PMCID: PMC4070234  PMID: 24715395
primary care; women’s health; veterans
13.  Teamlet Structure and Early Experiences of Medical Home Implementation for Veterans 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2014;29(Suppl 2):623-631.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
High functioning interdisciplinary primary care teams are a critical component of the patient-centered medical home. In 2010, the Veterans Administration (VA) implemented a medical home model termed the Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT), with reorganization of staff into small teams (“teamlets”) as a core feature.
OBJECTIVE
To examine the early experiences of primary care personnel as they assumed new roles through reorganization into teamlets.
DESIGN
Convergent mixed methods study design involving semi-structured interviews and a survey; data were collected in 2011 and 2012.
PARTICIPANTS
We interviewed 41 frontline teamlet members (i.e., primary care physicians and staff) from three practices that were part of a PACT demonstration laboratory and examined clinician and staff survey data from 22 practices.
MAIN MEASURES
Semi-structured interview guide and clinician and staff survey questions covering the following domains: teamlet formation and structure, within-teamlet communication, cross-coverage, role changes, teamlet training, impact on Veterans, and leadership facilitation and support.
KEY RESULTS
Respondents had limited input into teamlet structure and indicated limited training on the PACT initiative. Guidelines delineating each teamlet member’s roles and responsibilities were emphasized as important needs. Chronic understaffing also contributed to implementation challenges and territorial attitudes surfaced when cross-coverage was not clear. In addition, several core features of VA’s medical home transformation were not fully implemented by teamlet members. Most also reported limited guidance and feedback from leadership. Despite these challenges, teamlet-based care was perceived to have a positive impact on Veterans’ experiences of primary care and also resulted in improved communication among staff.
CONCLUSIONS
The PACT teamlet model holds much promise for improving primary care at the VA. However, more comprehensive training, improving the stability of teamlets, developing clear cross-coverage policies, and better defined teamlet member responsibilities are important areas in need of attention by VA leadership.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2680-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2680-1
PMCID: PMC4070242  PMID: 24715392
team structure; patient-centered medical home; practice redesign; primary care teams; veterans
14.  Implementation and Spread of Interventions Into the Multilevel Context of Routine Practice and Policy: Implications for the Cancer Care Continuum 
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.
doi:10.1093/jncimonographs/lgs004
PMCID: PMC3482959  PMID: 22623601
15.  Variations in Nurse Practitioner Use in Veterans Affairs Primary Care Practices 
Health Services Research  2004;39(4 Pt 1):887-904.
Background
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.
Objectives
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.
Study Design
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.
Principal Findings
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2004.00263.x
PMCID: PMC1361043  PMID: 15230933
Nurse practitioner; primary care staffing; practice characteristics; environmental characteristics
16.  Implementation of automated reporting of estimated glomerular filtration rate among Veterans Affairs laboratories: a retrospective study 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-69
PMCID: PMC3441329  PMID: 22788730
17.  PTSD Women Veterans’ Prevalence of PTSD Care 
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2488-z
PMCID: PMC3785650  PMID: 23690238
18.  Medical Home Features of VHA Primary Care Clinics and Avoidable Hospitalizations 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2013;28(9):1188-1194.
Background
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.
Objective
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.
Design
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.
Participants
2,853,030 patients from 814 VHA primary care clinics
Main Measures
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®.
Key Results
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).
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2405-5
PMCID: PMC3744290  PMID: 23529710
medical home; avoidable hospitalizations; access; care coordination
19.  PTSD Risk and Mental Health Care Engagement in a Multi-War Era Community Sample of Women Veterans 
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
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.
OBJECTIVES
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.
MAIN MEASURES
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.
KEY RESULTS
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.
CONCLUSIONS
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.
doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2303-2
PMCID: PMC3682036  PMID: 23435765
post-traumatic stress disorder; women; veterans; mental health services; utilization; Veterans hospitals
20.  Primary Care Practice Organization Influences Colorectal Cancer Screening Performance 
Health Services Research  2007;42(3 Pt 1):1130-1149.
Objective
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).
Study Design
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.
Principal Findings
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).
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00643.x
PMCID: PMC1955248  PMID: 17489907
Primary health care; colorectal cancer; prevention; quality of health care; veterans
21.  Wide Clinic-Level Variation in Adherence to Oral Diabetes Medications in the VA 
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
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.
OBJECTIVE
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.
DESIGN
Retrospective cohort study.
SETTING
VA hospital and VA community-based primary care clinics in the contiguous 48 states.
PATIENTS
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.
MAIN MEASURES
Refill-based medication adherence to OHA.
KEY RESULTS
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).
CONCLUSION
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.
doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2331-y
PMCID: PMC3631064  PMID: 23371383
pharmacoepidemiology; health services research; diabetes; veterans; primary care
22.  A Patient-Centered Primary Care Practice Approach Using Evidence-Based Quality Improvement: Rationale, Methods, and Early Assessment of Implementation 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2014;29(Suppl 2):589-597.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
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.
OBJECTIVE
To describe EBQI as an approach for promoting VA’s PACT and to assess initial implementation of planned EBQI elements.
DESIGN
Descriptive.
PARTICIPANTS
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.
INTERVENTION
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.
APPROACH
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.
RESULTS
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.
DISCUSSION
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.
doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2703-y
PMCID: PMC4070240  PMID: 24715397
quality improvement; primary care; patient-centered medical home; logic model; interdisciplinary leadership
24.  Determinants of Readiness for Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) in the VA Health Care System 
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
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.
OBJECTIVE
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.
DESIGN
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.
MAIN MEASURES
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.
KEY RESULTS
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.
CONCLUSIONS
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.
doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2217-z
PMCID: PMC3579970  PMID: 23054917
primary care; mental health; depression; collaborative care; implementation; readiness
25.  Alcohol Problems as a Risk Factor for Post-Disaster Depressed Mood among U.S. Veterans 
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.
doi:10.1037/a0030637
PMCID: PMC3604132  PMID: 23106638
alcohol; disasters; mental health; structural equation modeling; longitudinal studies

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