Michelle Mengeling, PhD, Associate in the Division of General Internal Medicine, has received a three-year, $1M grant from the VA’s Health Services Research and Development service to design measurement tools to evaluate critical aspects of VA’s network of community providers, particularly those in in the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which was developed in an effort to increase veterans’ access to health care. The VA has partnered with more than half a million community providers through the VCP over the last few years.
With this funding, Dr. Mengeling will develop and test ways to gauge the efficacy of the care veterans receive from non-VA sources by focusing on the network adequacy of non-VA community providers. Existing measures of network adequacy are used by states to regulate commercial insurers, and Dr. Mengeling’s initial work has shown that these measures may not be appropriate for the VA health care system. One goal of Dr. Mengeling’s work will be to develop network adequacy measures that make sense for the VA and that can be used to evaluate the relationship between network adequacy and access to care (e.g., reducing appointment wait times and travel distances).
In addition to building valid measures of network adequacy, Dr. Mengeling will also identify best practices for initiating and sustaining relationships between VA and non-VA Community Care providers, using both quantitative surveys and interviews with members of VA facilities using innovative practices. She will also work directly with veterans to incorporate their informational needs and preferences into the development of community care tools and materials. “Veterans have access to information about wait times, quality, and satisfaction when it comes to VA-provided care,” Dr. Mengeling said, “but they don’t have access to the same information for VA community providers.” Publicly available data on all available options will enable veterans to make informed choices about where to get their health care, with the goal of improving the quality of their care, access, and satisfaction.