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N Engl J Med. 2000 Dec 28;343(26):1934-41.

Outcome of myocardial infarction in Veterans Health Administration patients as compared with medicare patients.

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  • 1Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, TX 77030, USA.



Some have the opinion that patients cared for in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals receive care of poorer quality than those cared for in non-VHA institutions. To assess the quality of care in VHA hospitals, we compared the outcome of acute myocardial infarction among patients in VHA and non-VHA institutions while controlling for potential confounders, including coexisting conditions and severity of illness.


We studied 2486 veterans discharged from 81 VHA hospitals and 29,249 Medicare patients discharged from 1530 non-VHA hospitals, restricting our samples to men at least 65 years of age who were discharged with confirmed acute myocardial infarction. We compared coexisting conditions, severity of illness, and 30-day and 1-year mortality in the two samples.


VHA patients were significantly more likely than Medicare patients to have a recorded history of hypertension (64.3 percent vs. 57.3 percent), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma (30.9 percent vs. 23.5 percent), diabetes (34.8 percent vs. 29.0 percent), stroke (20.4 percent vs. 14.2 percent), or dementia (7.2 percent vs. 4.8 percent) (P<0.001 for all comparisons). According to both multivariate logistic regression and an analysis using 2265 matched pairs of VHA and Medicare patients, there were no significant differences in 30-day or 1-year mortality. The matched-pairs analysis found that the difference in mortality at 30 days (the mortality rate among Medicare patients minus the mortality rate among VHA patients), averaged over the 5-year age groups, was -0.8 percent (95 percent confidence interval, -2.8 percent to 1.3 percent), and the difference in mortality at 1 year was -1.3 percent (95 percent confidence interval, -3.9 percent to 1.3 percent).


VHA patients had more coexisting conditions than Medicare patients. Nevertheless, we found no significant difference in mortality between VHA and Medicare patients, a result that suggests a similar quality of care for acute myocardial infarction.

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