Veterans hospitals top private care in patient satisfaction, Medicare survey says

When it comes to HCAHPS survey scores, the Veterans Health Administration beat out its private healthcare counterparts across the country in all 10 patient satisfaction categories, according to a nationwide Medicare survey released June 14. The report is based on discharge data collected between July 2021 and June 2022.

With a patient load of about 9 million across 1,255 facilities — 1,113 outpatient clinics and 171 medical centers — throughout the United States, the Veterans Health Administration is the nation's largest integrated healthcare system.

For almost a decade, the VA has been under scrutiny since a 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs report revealed system-wide challenges. 

But Shereef Elnahal, MD, undersecretary for the VA, stands behind the system. "The VA is the best option for veteran care. Study after study shows that quality and patient safety is at least as good if not better than our private sector counterparts," Dr. Elnahal said in a June 14 NPR report.

Comparing VA healthcare with private care is valuable because in the wake of complaints about long wait times and needing to travel considerable distances to obtain care at veterans facilities, Congress allowed the VA to send patients to private facilities. However, private care costs more and the VA has shown resistance to the private care option, looking to contain costs by keeping veterans within its system. 

The Medicare survey reflects patients' responses to questions regarding communication with nurses, communication with doctors, responsiveness of hospital staff, cleanliness and quietness of hospital environment, care transition and discharge information, among others. 

"This offers among the first opportunities to directly compare us with our private sector counterparts, and we're really happy with the results, but we won't be content until 100 percent of hospitals are pinging in the right ratings," Dr. Elnahal said.


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