VA wait times shorter than private sector, study finds

Between 2014 and 2017, average wait times for outpatient care improved for three of four specialties in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, while those at private sector hospitals remained the same, according to a study published by JAMA.

Researchers examined new appointment wait times for patients seeking care at VA medical centers in 15 cities from 2014-17. They focused on wait times for primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics. These findings were compared with private sector wait times determined by a secret shopper survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins.

The study found wait times in the VA and the private sector were on par in 2014, across specialties and regions. The mean wait time in the VA in 2014 was 22.5 days, versus 18.7 days in the private sector. However, three years later, VA wait times were significantly shorter than private sector wait times for primary care, dermatology and cardiology. For example, primary care wait times were 20 days on average in the VA at this time, compared to 40.7 for the private sector. Only orthopedic wait times remained longer in the VA.

The study concludes that access to care in the VA has improved over the study time period, reducing wait times.  


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