Most Women Veterans Report Timely Access to Mental Healthcare, Leading to High Satisfaction with VA Care
Women Veterans' use of VA health services is rapidly increasing. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of women Veterans who used VA more than doubled, and there was a 49% increase in the proportion who accessed VA mental health services. This study evaluated access to mental healthcare by assessing women Veterans' perceptions of the timeliness and quality of care. Using data from a 12-site parent study (Implementation of Women's Health Patient Aligned Care Teams) spanning 4 VISNs, investigators identified 419 women Veterans who used VA primary care and had received VA mental healthcare in the previous 12 months (51% of the sample). The study examined self-reported timely access to mental healthcare, potential barriers to access, and women Veterans' ratings of VA care.
- Of the 419 women Veterans in this study cohort, 59% reported "always" getting an appointment for mental healthcare as soon as needed, and another 22% reported "usually" getting an appointment as soon as needed.
- In adjusted analyses, two problems were negatively associated with timely access to mental healthcare: 1) medical appointments that interfere with other activities, and 2) difficulty getting questions answered between visits.
- Average ratings of the quality of VA healthcare were high: 8.5 out of 10 regarding VA mental healthcare, 8.7 for VA primary care, and 8.2 for VA healthcare overall. Moreover, 93% of women Veterans reported that they would recommend VA healthcare to other women Veterans.
- Timely access to mental healthcare was positively associated with all four ratings of VA.
- This study highlights opportunities for addressing barriers to timely mental healthcare (i.e., "appointment times conflicting with other activities," and "difficulty getting questions answered between visits") through practices such as non-traditional clinic hours, open access scheduling, telemedicine, and secure messaging.
- Measures were self-reported and, thus, were subjective.
- The healthcare system problems that were examined were not specific to mental healthcare.
This study was funded by HSR&D (CRE 12-026, SDR 10-012), and Dr. Yano was supported by an HSR&D Senior Research Career Scientist Award. Mr. Brunner, Dr. Schweizer, Ms. Canelo, Dr. Leung, and Dr. Yano (Director) are part of HSR&D's Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy (CSHIIP) in Los Angeles, CA.
Brunner J, Schweizer A, Canelo I, Leung L, Strauss J, and Yano E. Timely Access to Mental Health Care among Women Veterans. Psychological Services. April 5, 2018; Epub ahead of print.