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VA Outranks Private Sector in Health Care Patient Satisfaction

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2006 – Veterans continued to rate the care they receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system higher than other Americans rate private-sector health care for the sixth consecutive year, a new annual report on customer satisfaction reveals.

For VA Secretary R. James Nicholson, the news is affirmation of what he called "the greatest story never told," that the VA offers top-quality care for its patients.

VA medical services received high marks during the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, which has ranked customer satisfaction with various federal programs and private-sector industries and major companies since 1994.

Veterans who recently used VA services and were interviewed for the 2005 ACSI survey gave the VA's inpatient care a rating of 83 on a 100-point scale -- compared to a 73 rating for the private-sector health care industry. Veterans gave the VA a rating of 80 for outpatient care, five percentage points higher than the 75 rating for private-sector outpatient care and 9 percent higher than the average satisfaction rating for all federal services.

"Although VA has received many wonderful endorsements recently, the support of our veterans -- the people who know us best -- is the highest praise," Nicholson said.

The latest survey marks the sixth consecutive year that VA's health care system has outranked the private sector for customer satisfaction, Nicholson noted today during a joint interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

He called this year's results, like those over the past six years, a testament to the hard work of VA employees and generous funding from Congress and the president, who have increased the VA's budget by 57 percent over the past five years.

The results also reaffirm what Nicholson said the VA's 7.5 million enrollees have recognized all along: The VA continues to get better all the time. "It's been good for a long time, but now it's great," he said.

Over its 75-year history, the VA has created "the largest integrated health care system in the world and arguably the best," Nicholson said. Some 237,000 VA professionals provide health care to more than 7.5 million enrollees through 154 hospitals, 860 clinics and 200 veterans centers. These health care facilities are "on the leading edge of technology and safety" as they provide a model for the medical profession, Nicholson said.

A computerized medical record system -- one Nicholson said he hopes will serve as a model for the Defense Department and other organizations -- helps eliminate hospital mix-ups and ensures more thorough patient care, he said.

In addition, VA remains a leader in medical research, developing the pacemaker, helping pioneer the CT scan, and performing the first liver transplant, among other advances, he said. The VA has been involved in studies involving Parkinson's disease and a recent breakthrough in an immunization for shingles.

Meanwhile, the VA continues to strive to better serve its patients, Nicholson said. The department's staff is working to reduce waiting time for appointments and to ensure veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan receive top priority for care, he said. "We have ramped up for them," he said, noting that the VA has already provided medical services to about 135,000 new veterans. "We are there for them and ready for them."

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R. James Nicholson

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Department of Veterans Affairs

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