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The Role of VA Research in a Learning Healthcare System

April 17, 2017

Recent research suggests that on most measures the VA healthcare system continues to provide care for Veterans that is comparable to – or better than – the quality of private sector care. However, these same reports indicate wide variation in practices across VA medical centers, suggesting systematic issues that affect organization and management, including delays in access to care. As VA continues to address these challenges, research will help fulfill the vision of a learning healthcare system as outlined by the Institute of Medicine. A recently published article co-authored by Dr. David Atkins, Director of HSR&D, Dr. Amy Kilbourne, Director of VA HSR&D's Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI), and Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, discusses VA's robust history of practice-based research that can inform future research in a learning healthcare system, creating a culture of quality and innovation. VA is the only organization that conducts research specific to the unique health issues affecting Veterans, through an extensive network of partnerships and clinical investigators embedded in its facilities. VA also funds major research initiatives in mental health, homelessness, primary care, women's health, implementation science, and health information technology. Further, the authors note that lessons learned in VA are increasingly relevant to other healthcare systems, as the issues confronting VA – the need to provide timely access, coordination of care, and consistent high quality across a diverse system – mirror those of the larger U.S. healthcare system.

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