MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
David Shulkin, MD
Ninth Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, District Of Columbia
Shulkin Solutions LLC
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: I came to VA in 2015 as Under Secretary for Health, as a result of the 2014 wait time crisis. At that time, it was determined that in some locations, veterans had been waiting for care for too long and there were allegations that this had resulted in harm to a number of veterans. I was in the private sector at the time, but was asked by President Obama to come and help improve the situation.
Upon my arrival we created systems to determine which veterans were waiting for urgent healthcare and which ones for routine care. From here, we established same day services for all veterans waiting for urgent care through primary care and behavioral health access points. This goal was achieved nationwide at the end of 2016. When I became Secretary in 2017, we began publishing our wait time data for all to see, so that veterans had accurate information on which to base their choices on and to provide transparency into where we were improving and where we needed to focus our efforts. In addition, through programmatic and legislative efforts, we expanded our utilization of private sector options so that veterans with clinical needs would be able to get better access to care.
This study was meant to determine whether our efforts from 2014 had resulted in improvements to access and in addition how access to care in the VA compared to access in the private sector. Despite limitations in the data available from the private sector (since others do not publish their actual wait time data similar to VA) we used a data set that we felt had some applicability for these comparisons.
We found that for the most part, VA wait times are often shorter than in the private sector, and that VA wait times had improved since 2014 while the private sectors access had stayed the same. Continue reading