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Veterans Health Administration similar or better than private sector for cancer patients ages 65+
Date:6/6/2011

Boston, Mass (June 6, 2011)A new study finds that the cancer care provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for men 65 years and older is at least as good as, and by some measures better than, Medicare-funded fee-for-service care obtained through the private sector. The study, reported in the June 7 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, was led by Nancy Keating, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

Several factors could account for the high quality of VHA care. "Care in the VHA is much better coordinated than most other settings," said Keating, who is also an associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The VHA has a good, integrated medical record. Their doctors all work together and communicate more effectively. There are no incentives for the overuse of cancer treatments because VHA physicians are not rewarded financially for prescribing more drugs or procedures. The VHA also measures quality across a wide range of conditions, so there is a culture of quality improvement."

The VHA is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, and veterans who are part of the VHA get almost all of their care from this system. In contrast to the fee-for-service model of care common in the private health sector, the VHA operates on a set budget to provide coordinated and comprehensive healthcare services, and its doctors are salaried. Congress has mandated periodic assessments of the VHA's performance in various domains of health care. In contracting out the VHA's cancer care evaluation, the Office of Policy and Planning of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs turned to Keating and her colleagues.

Keating's team pooled registry and administrative data from 2001-2004 for men 65 years and older diagnosed with the three most common cancers in mencolorectal, lung and prostate cancersor hematologic cancers, such as lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The researchers used sophist
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Contact: David Cameron
david_cameron@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0441
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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