U.S. veterans rate the quality of care they get in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals as good as or better on average than in private-sector hospitals, according to a major national customer-satisfaction survey.
The 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows that among the more than 8 million veterans served by the VA health system, VA hospitals earned satisfaction ratings of 84 (out of 100) for inpatient care and 82 for outpatient services, while U.S. private-sector hospitals earned ratings of 80 and 83 in the same categories.
"Our nation's veterans deserve the best care, and the ACSI survey results help us better understand how veterans feel about their overall care experience at the VA," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in a press release. "There is always more work to do, and we are focused on continuous improvement to the care we provide."
Not the VA hospitals are without problems. In fact, one of the improvements Sec. Shinseki is probably focusing on is the rash of at least 31 preventable deaths in VA hospitals revealed last year in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
The preventable deaths, along with a GAO report showing the VA had paid bonuses to incompetent doctors, contributed to the introduction of two bills in Congress that would "allow" the VA to fire poorly performing VA executives.
Of course, criticism of VA health care should be tempered by the fact that it serves a lot of patients. VA hospitals and clinics handled almost 90 million outpatient visits in 2013, keeping some 236,000 appointments per day, according to the VA.
In the 2103 ACSI survey, more than 90% of the veterans who responded expressed favorable opinions of the service provided in VA health facilities.
VA medical staff was rated as "highly courteous" by 92% of those surveyed, while 91% gave the same rating to the VA hospitals' appointment-handling and administrative staffs.
Perhaps most importantly, 95% of the survey respondents said they would continue to use VA facilities for their health care needs.
Note that veterans are not required to use VA hospitals exclusively in order to take advantage of their health care benefits.
Also getting high satisfaction ratings in the 2103 ACSI survey, the VA's National Cemetery Administration, outranked all other federal agencies and some top private-sector corporations with a 96 rating. The 96 was 28 points higher than the average 68 rating for all government agencies.