Health Services Research & Development

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Miller EA, Gidmark S, Gadbois E, Rudolph JL, Intrator O. Staff Perceptions of Key Factors Guiding Nursing Home Search and Selection Within the Veterans Health Administration. The Gerontologist. 2018 Jul 13; 58(4):e226-e238.
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Abstract: Background and Objectives: Veterans enter nursing homes (NHs) for short-term postacute, rehabilitation, respite, or end-of-life care. They also enter NHs on a long-term basis due to frailty, disability, functional deficits, and cognitive impairment. Little is known about how a particular NH is chosen once the decision to enter a NH has been made. This study identified VA staff perceptions of the key factors influencing the search and selection of NHs within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Research Design and Methods: Data derived from 35 semistructured interviews with discharge planning and contracting staff from 12 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs). Results: VA staff placed a premium on Veteran and family preferences in the NH selection process, though VA staff knowledge and familiarity with placement options established the general parameters within which NH placement decisions were made. Geographic proximity to Veterans' homes and families was a major factor in NH choice. Other key considerations included Veterans' specialty care needs (psychiatric, postacute, ventilator) and Veteran/facility demographics (age, race/ethnicity, Veteran status). VA staff tried to remain neutral in NH selection, thus instructing families to visit facilities and review publicly available quality data. VA staff report that amenities (private rooms, activities, smoking) and aesthetics (cleanliness, smell, layout, décor) often outweighed objective quality indicators in Veteran and family decision making. Discussion and Implications: Findings suggest that VAMCs facilitate Veteran and family decision making around NH selection. They also suggest that VAMCs endeavor to identify and recruit a broader array of higher quality NHs to better match the specific needs of Veterans and families to the choice set available.