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VA-Delivered or VA-Purchased Care: Important Factors for Veterans Navigating Care Decisions.

Lafferty M, Govier DJ, Golden SE, Disher NG, Hynes DM, Slatore CG. VA-Delivered or VA-Purchased Care: Important Factors for Veterans Navigating Care Decisions. Journal of general internal medicine. 2023 May 1; 38(7):1647-1654.

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: The VA MISSION Act aimed to increase Veterans'' access to care by allowing eligible Veterans to use VA-paid care from non-VA providers ("VA-purchased care"). We interviewed Veterans who were eligible for both VA-delivered and VA-purchased care to examine factors they consider when making decisions about whether to use VA-delivered or VA-purchased care. METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 28 Veterans across the USA who were eligible for VA-delivered and VA-purchased care, using deductive and inductive analysis to develop themes. Participants were recruited from a survey about healthcare access and decision-making. More than half of participants lived in rural areas, 21 were men, and 25 were? > 50 years old. KEY RESULTS: Veteran participants identified (1) high-quality relationships with providers based on mutual trust, empathy, authenticity, and continuity of care, and (2) a positive environment or "eco-system of care" characterized by supportive interactions with staff and other Veterans, and exemplary customer service as integral to their decisions about where to receive care. These preferences influenced their engagement with VA and non-VA providers. We discovered corresponding findings related to Veterans'' information needs. When making decisions around where to receive care, participants said they would like more information about VA and non-VA providers and services, and about coordination of care and referrals, including understanding processes and implications of utilizing VA-purchased care. DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: Current VA-purchased care eligibility determinations focus on common access metrics (e.g., wait times, distance to care). Yet, Veterans discussed other important factors for navigating care decisions, including patient-provider relationship quality and the larger healthcare environment (e.g., interactions with staff and other Veterans). Our findings point to the need for health systems to collect and provide information on these aspects of care to ensure care decisions reflect what is important to Veterans when navigating where to receive care.

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