The study looked at nine measures of quality care that are equally appropriate for women and men, including pneumonia and influenza vaccinations; colorectal cancer screenings; and eye examinations for diabetics, to determine what percentage of VA patients received appropriate care for their gender. Men were more likely to receive appropriate services in five of the nine categories; women in the other four.
"Many recent studies have shown that the quality of care VA's health care system provides is second to none," said Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, VA Under Secretary for Health, and one of the study's co-authors. "We are proud to demonstrate that this statement is true for women veterans as well as for men."
Today, women veterans make up approximately 10 percent of VA's patient workload. This percentage is expected to grow in the years ahead as women make up more of the military.
Few previous studies have looked at disparities between men and women in ambulatory care settings other than VA's. Several studies, however, have shown that women often receive poorer care after being admitted to hospitals for congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, and other common medical conditions.
The study's lead author, Dr. Ashish K. Jha of the Harvard School of Public Health, believes that the equal care the study has demonstrated may be related to the large strides in health care quality VA has achieved in the past decade.
According to a study recently completed by the RAND Corporation, VA patients now receive better care then the average American in 348 separate measures of health care quality.
The new study, titled "Quality of Ambulatory Care for Women and Men in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System," is the first to determine that men and women have shared equally in this advancement.
"VA is pleased by this study's results, and by all we have accomplished in the past decade to improve veterans' health," said Dr. Perlin. "We intend to continue our efforts to ensure that every veteran enrolled with us receives the finest care available anywhere."