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Does Community Outsourcing Improve Timeliness of Care for Veterans With Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Kaul B, Hynes DM, Hickok A, Smith C, Niederhausen M, Totten AM, Whooley MA, Sarmiento K. Does Community Outsourcing Improve Timeliness of Care for Veterans With Obstructive Sleep Apnea? Medical care. 2021 Feb 1; 59(2):111-117.

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BACKGROUND: Providing timely access to care has been a long-standing priority for the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. Recent strategies to reduce long wait times have focused on purchasing community care by a fee-for-service model. Whether outsourcing Veterans Affairs (VA) specialty care to the community improves access is unclear. OBJECTIVES: We compared time from referral to treatment among Veterans whose care was provided by VA versus community care purchased by the VA, using obstructive sleep apnea as an example condition. METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of Northern California Veterans seeking sleep apnea care through the San Francisco VA Healthcare System between 2012 and 2018. We used multivariable linear regression with propensity score matching to investigate the relationship between time to care delivery and care setting (VA provided vs. VA-purchased community care). A total of 1347 Northern California Veterans who completed sleep apnea testing within the VA and 88 Veterans who completed sleep apnea testing in the community had complete data for analysis. RESULTS: Among Northern California Veterans with obstructive sleep apnea, outsourcing of care to the community was associated with longer time from referral to therapy (mean±SD, 129.6±82.8?d with VA care vs. 252.0±158.8?d with community care, P < 0.001) and greater loss to follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that purchasing community care may lead to care fragmentation and not improve wait times nor improve access to subspecialty care for Veterans.

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