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Travel time and attrition from VHA care among women veterans: how far is too far?

Friedman SA, Frayne SM, Berg E, Hamilton AB, Washington DL, Saechao F, Maisel NC, Lin JY, Hoggatt KJ, Phibbs CS. Travel time and attrition from VHA care among women veterans: how far is too far? Medical care. 2015 Apr 1; 53(4 Suppl 1):S15-22.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Travel time, an access barrier, may contribute to attrition of women veterans from Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care. OBJECTIVE: We examined whether travel time influences attrition: (a) among women veterans overall, (b) among new versus established patients, and (c) among rural versus urban patients. RESEARCH DESIGN: This retrospective cohort study used logistic regression to estimate the association between drive time and attrition, overall and for new/established and rural/urban patients. SUBJECTS: In total, 266,301 women veteran VHA outpatients in the Fiscal year 2009. MEASURES: An "attriter" did not return for VHA care during the second through third years after her first 2009 visit (T0). Drive time (log minutes) was between the patient's residence and her regular source of VHA care. "New" patients had no VHA visits within 3 years before T0. Models included age, service-connected disability, health status, and utilization as covariates. RESULTS: Overall, longer drive times were associated with higher odds of attrition: drive time adjusted odds ratio = 1.11 (99% confidence interval, 1.09-1.14). The relationship between drive time and attrition was stronger among new patients but was not modified by rurality. CONCLUSIONS: Attrition among women veterans is sensitive to longer drive time. Linking new patients to VHA services designed to reduce distance barriers (telemedicine, community-based clinics, mobile clinics) may reduce attrition among women new to VHA.





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