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Billig JI, Evans RR, Kerr EA, Hayward RA, Sears ED. The Impact of Community Care Referral on Time to Surgery for Veterans With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Medical care. 2021 Jun 1; 59(Suppl 3):S279-S285.
BACKGROUND: The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) enacted policies offering Veterans care in the community, aiming to improve access challenges. However, the impact of receipt of community care on wait times for Veterans receiving surgical care is poorly understood. OBJECTIVES: To compare wait times for surgery for Veterans with carpal tunnel syndrome who receive VA care plus community care (mixed care) and those who receive care solely within the VA (VA-only). RESEARCH DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SUBJECTS: Veterans undergoing carpal tunnel release (CTR) between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2016. MEASURES: Our primary outcome was time from primary care physician (PCP) referral to CTR. RESULTS: Of the 29,242 Veterans undergoing CTR, 23,330 (79.8%) received VA-only care and 5912 (20.1%) received mixed care. Veterans receiving mixed care had significantly longer time from PCP referral to CTR (median mixed care: 378 days; median VA-only care: 176 days, P < 0.001). After controlling for patient and facility covariates, mixed care was associated with a 37% increased time from PCP referral to CTR (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.63; 95% confidence interval, 0.61-0.65). Each additional service provided in the community was associated with a 23% increase in time to surgery (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.77; 95% confidence interval, 0.76-0.78). CONCLUSIONS: VA-only care was associated with a shorter time to surgery compared with mixed care. Moreover, there were additional delays for each service received in the community. With likely increases in Veterans seeking community care, strategies must be used to identify and mitigate sources of delay through the spectrum of care between referral and definitive treatment.