Last updated: July 09. 2014 10:34AM - 147 Views
Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist

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Half of the physicians who have experience practicing medicine at the Veterans Administration and the private sector since 2000 say the quality of care is worse in the VA system, according to a national survey of more than 1,500 doctors conducted by Jackson Healthcare.

Fifty percent of the doctors who have practiced at the VA and in the private sector said the quality of care for military veterans is worse than in private practice. Thirty-one percent said it is about the same. VA doctors don’t see it that way. Only 23 percent of physicians who are working at the VA say the quality of care is worse than the private sector; 39 percent of VA doctors say it is about the same as the private sector.

The nationwide survey of 1,527 physicians who reported working at the VA since 2000 was conducted June 5 to 11 and has a confidence level of 95 percent with an error rate of + or – 2.5 percent.

Thirty-six percent of those surveyed are currently working in the VA. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents also have reported working in private practice since 2000, enabling them to make comparisons. Thirty-five percent have spent at least five years at the VA since 2000.

Doctors who currently work who have had VA experience and private sector experience also see access to care in the VA as a big problem. Sixty-nine percent of those with experience at the VA and the private sector were likely to report the VA had worse access to care.

Yet, in comparison, only 52 percent of VA physicians report access to care is a problem.

“Most of the doctors we surveyed have seen what the practice of medicine is like under a government system and in the private sector,” said Richard L. Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare. “Those who have left the system are more likely to be frank about the hassles within the VA that impede the ability for patients to receive quality care.”

And access issues come across in a variety of ways in the physicians’ survey. For example:

* Sixty percent of all physicians surveyed – those who currently work at the VA and those who have VA and private sector experience — said the amount of time they spent on administrative, non-clinical duties within the VA is too much.

* Fifty-six percent of the same group of physicians said that wait times to access the system is poor.

* Sixty percent report the wait times to see primary care physicians as poor.

* Sixty percent rate the wait time to see specialty doctors are poor.

* Once patients do get into the VA system; however, 76 percent of physicians rate the quality of specialty care to be good, 71 percent rate the

primary care to be good, and 68 percent rate the amount of time spent with patients to be good.

“This confirms what we have been hearing that the unhappiness with patient care at the VA primarily stems from long waits and the inability to access care,” said Jackson. “Doctors are on the front lines and they know there should be nothing that impedes allowing patients to access care when he or she needs it.”

Physicians who gave the VA poor scores on access to care were more likely to be from the Mountain region of the country, be surgical sub-specialists, be full-time physicians and be full-time male doctors. Those who were more likely to give the VA good scores on access were likely to be from New England or the Mid Atlantic, be internal medicine subspecialists, part time, foreign graduate or female physicians or had less experience in private practice.

Jackson Healthcare is the third largest healthcare staffing company in the U.S. and serves more than five million patients in over 1,300 healthcare facilities. [Source: Jackson Healthcare News Release Jun 24, 2014]

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