Measuring Performance: The VA vs. Nonfederal Hospitals

During this time of transition, among the many philosophical questions the American medical community faces is this: Is healthcare in this country about treating or preventing disease? Numerous scholarly and journalistic articles suggest the former.

It's a relevant question not only because preventive healthcare dramatically decreases the likelihood of long-term harm to the patient; it is also much cheaper than treating disease after it is diagnosed.

At the VA, where hospitals and doctors have almost lifetime relationships with patients, prevention is a systemic value. The following statistics clearly demonstrate that the  VA maintains significantly better levels of preventive care than non-federal hospitals. Yes, the VA system is different, which suggests how we might reform healthcare more broadly, not whether or not the VA is a useful model.

Measuring Performance :: The VA vs. Nonfederal Hospitals

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SOURCE: "The Future of Health Information Technology: Healthy People: IHS and VHA Moving Forward Together," a presentation by Robert M. Kolodner, MD, acting chief health informatics officer and acting deputy CIO for health, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs. This presentation was given at the IHS Information Technology Conference, Aug. 24, 2004. 


The numbers in the table represent the percentage of patients that received the specific health screening listed in a particular year.

NCQA = National Committee for Quality Assurance, a private, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality.

BRFSS = Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world’s largest, ongoing telephone health survey system, tracking health conditions and risk behaviors in the US yearly since 1984.