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J Palliat Med. 2010 Aug;13(8):991-6. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2010.0044.

Families' perceptions of end-of-life care in Veterans Affairs versus non-Veterans Affairs facilities.

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Division of Geriatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



The Veterans Affairs (VA) has made significant investments in care for veterans. However, it is not known whether these investments have produced improvements in end-of-life care in the VA compared to other settings. Therefore, the goal of this study was to compare families' perceptions of end-of-life care among patients who died in VA and non-VA facilities.


Retrospective 32-item telephone surveys were conducted with family members of patients who died in VA and non-VA facilities.


Five Veterans Affairs medical centers and their affiliated nursing homes and outpatient clinics.


Patients were eligible if they received any care from a participating VA facility in the last month of life and if they died in an inpatient setting. One family member per patient completed the survey.


In bivariate analysis, patients who died in VA facilities (n = 520) had higher mean satisfaction scores compared to those who died in non-VA facilities (n = 89; 59 versus 51; rank sum test p = 0.002). After adjusting for medical center, the overall score was still significantly higher for those dying in the VA (beta = 0.07; confidence interval [CI] = 0.02-0.11; p = 0.004), as was the domain measuring care around the time of death (beta = 0.11; CI = 0.04-0.17; p = 0.001).


Families of patients who died in VA facilities rated care as being better than did families of those who died in non-VA facilities. These results provide preliminary evidence that the VA's investment in end-of-life care has contributed to improvements in care in VA facilities compared to non-VA facilities.

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