Since the implementation of the VA MISSION Act on June 6, 2019, more than 2.7 million Veterans have been referred to community care, representing 31% of the 8.92 million enrolled Veterans in VA care. Over the course of that time, 1.2 million providers have enrolled in VA’s Community Care Network (CCN) – VA’s direct link with community providers to ensure that Veterans receive timely, high-quality care. Care provided in the community includes services that VA does not offer, such as obstetrics care, as well as services that VA provides. In this Medical Care Supplement, 12 articles highlight research focusing on Veterans’ use of community care and how VA facilities interact with community care (CC) providers. The Supplement offers a broad examination of VA’s expanded Community Care program, with articles on topics such as: comparing wait times for specialty outpatient services in CC and VA (Gurewich, et al); comparing Veterans’ use of primary care services at VA facilities versus CC (Hynes, et al); and examining the challenges VA medical centers face in their relationships with engaging community providers in care (Mattocks, et al).
The enduring challenge for VA is to determine what balance of in-person VA care, virtual VA care, and care in the community offers the optimal balance of timely high-quality care. More work is needed to understand how Veterans make choices regarding VA versus community care, what factors are most important in these decisions, and what factors drive optimal patient experiences for Veterans in choosing among their care options. Additional work will be needed to understand and improve care coordination between VA and community providers, and determine what additional systems are needed to ensure that accurate and important information is exchanged between healthcare systems.
VA Community Care: Understanding Veterans’ Access, Utilization, and Satisfaction. Medical Care. May 13, 2021;59(3); online ahead of print.