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Barriers to Caring for Veterans Among Non-VA Providers

October 29, 2018

Due to a limited knowledge of resources and coordination problems, health care providers that are outside of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) are uncertain how to address veterans’ needs, according to a recent study published online in Family Practice.

"Given the significant numbers of veterans who use non-VA sources of care and the potentially broad-ranging impacts of military service on health, supporting providers in their ability to recognize and address the needs of these patients--and to do so in a culturally competent manner--is critically important to improving these patients' overall health and well-being," Bonnie Vest, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University at Buffalo and the principal investigator for the project, said in a statement.

Recently, non-VA health care providers have been called upon to screen patients for veteran status in order to better identify military-related health sequelae, according to the study authors. However, many service members are not being asked about veteran status. The researchers sough to qualitatively asses—from non-VA primary care providers’ point-of-view—barriers to providing care to veterans, the training providers perceive as most useful and the tools and translational processes they think would be most valuable in increasing military cultural competency.

In order to identify the barriers, the researchers conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 10 non-VA primary care providers. The interviews asked about providers’ approach to addressing veteran status in their practice and their thoughts on how to address the needs of this population. Further, qualitative data were analyzed using a thematic content analysis approach.

According to the findings, the researchers identified 3 major themes:

  • barriers to caring for patients who are identified as veterans;
  • thoughts on tools that might help better identify and screen veteran patients; and,
  • thoughts on translating and implementing new care processes for veteran patients into everyday practice.

“Our study identified barriers related to non-VA providers’ ability to care for veterans among their patients and possible mechanisms for improving recognition of veterans in civilian health care settings,” Dr Vest and colleagues concluded.

The research team noted that there is a need for additional research in order to better understand how assessment, screening, and follow-up care for veteran patients is best implemented into civilian primary care settings.  

Julie Gould

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