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Health Services Research & Development

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HSR&D Citation Abstract

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Dunn SH, Rogal SS, Maier MM, Chartier M, Morgan TR, Beste LA. Access to Comprehensive Services for Advanced Liver Disease in the Veterans Health Administration. Digestive diseases and sciences. 2019 Dec 1; 64(12):3471-3479.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides care to the one of the largest cohorts of patients with advanced liver disease (ALD) in the USA. AIMS: We performed a national survey to assess system-wide strengths and barriers to care for Veterans with ALD in this national integrated healthcare setting. METHODS: A 52-item survey was developed to assess access and barriers to care in Veterans with ALD. The survey was distributed to all VHA medical centers in 2015. Results were analyzed using descriptive statistics. RESULTS: One hundred and fifty-three sites responded to this survey. Multidisciplinary services were available on-site at > 80% of sites. Ninety-five percent of sites had mental health and addictions treatment available, with 14% co-locating these services within the liver clinic. Few sites ( < 25%) provided pharmacologic treatment for alcohol use disorder in primary care or hepatology settings. Seventy-two percent of sites reported at least one barrier to liver-related care. Of the sites reporting at least one barrier, 53% reported barriers to liver transplant referral, citing complex processes and lack of staff/resources to coordinate referrals. Palliative care was widely available, but 61% of sites reported referring < 25% of their patients with ALD for palliative services. CONCLUSION: Multidisciplinary services for Veterans with ALD are widely available at VHA sites, though barriers to optimal care remain. Opportunities for improvement include the expansion of providers with hepatology expertise, integrating pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder into hepatology and primary care, streamlining the transplant referral process, and expanding palliative care referrals for patients with ALD.

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