When you need a hospital, where do you go? If you have a choice of locations near you, including a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, how do you choose?

A Dartmouth Atlas Project study just concluded that VA hospitals generally outperform civilian hospitals in most of the country. They looked at Hospital Compare data, the online feature of Medicare.gov, and studied the data from 121 markets that included at least one VA facility.

I hate to use the word “skewed,” but when you try to look at the information, and cut and dissect it, the words can start to lose meaning.  For example, in describing the findings, the language in the VA press release is strained: “VA hospitals provided the best care in most referral regions and rarely provided inadequate care. VHA hospitals provided the best care in most referral regions and rarely provided the worst care.” What, in practical terms, does that even mean when it comes to picking out a hospital?

VA hospitals were found to be best or above average for heart failure, pneumonia or heart attacks. At least half the time in local markets, VA was the best in areas such as death rates after surgery, broken hips from falls after surgery and blood infections after surgery. They looked at pneumonia, COPD, heart failure and acute myocardial infarction, as well as 11 patient safety issues.

But the authors of the study parted company with the VA in their conclusion about using civilian community care. They say the practice needs to be re-examined; the VA says it doesn’t.

One thing to consider when looking at the results of this study: The co-writing group, Dartmouth Atlas Project, only studies information it gets from Medicare.gov Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which means patients age 65 and up.

©2018 King Features Synd., Inc.


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