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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Study Shows VA Care for Patients with Hypertension and Diabetes Comparable or Better Than Private Sector

March 4, 2004

Study Shows VA Care for Patients with Hypertension and Diabetes Comparable or Better Than Private Sector

Released: 2004/03/04

HOUSTON, TX - According to an article in the January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality, veterans being treated for hypertension at VA medical facilities received comparable medical treatment to non-veterans receiving care in the private sector. The same study reported that veterans treated for diabetes received better care than their non-veteran counterparts. These results are significant in light of the increasing number of veterans obtaining their health care through the VA health care system.

The study was performed by J. Kalavar, M.D., chief, Primary Care and Hardeep Singh, M.D., staff attending, Primary Care at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in Houston.

"We looked for an objective way to compare primary care quality at Veterans Affairs medical facilities with that of private sector. The VA uses performance measures to benchmark and improve quality in our primary care clinics. Similar performance measures from the Health Plan and Employer Data Information Set (HEDIS) are used in care for hypertension and diabetes in the private sector. We compared a sample data from the South-Central Network of VA hospitals (VISN 16) with data from HMOs in the private sector detailed in the National Committee for Quality Assurance's The State of Health Care Quality 2002 Report," said Kalavar.

Both hypertension and diabetes have a tremendous public health impact. More than 58 million people in the United States have hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. Hypertension is defined as blood pressure elevation that is above the normal range. This can cause damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. There are 18.2 million people in the United States, or 6.3% of the population, who have diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin.

"Additionally, we did a regional comparison of blood pressure control because studies have shown that people in the southern United States respond less to the use of several antihypertensive medications. VISN 16's performance compared to the south-central network of private sector HMOs was better. VISN 16's performance on all diabetes measures was higher than the national average. The National Committee for Quality Assurance has reported that those organizations allowing their performance data to be publicized far outperform those that do not. This suggests we may actually be comparing our data with the top rated national plans," said Singh.

As a member of one of the world's largest integrated health care systems, the MEDVAMC serves as the primary health care provider for more than 103,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Including the satellite clinics in Lufkin and Beaumont, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged over 650,000 outpatient visits in fiscal year 2003. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, ophthalmology, nuclear medicine, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases.

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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

03/03/04 14:40