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Am J Manag Care. 2017 May 1;23(5):e129-e137.

The association of mental health program characteristics and patient satisfaction.

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VA Boston Healthcare System, 150 S Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02130. E-mail:



Satisfaction with care is an important patient-centered domain of health system quality. However, satisfaction measures are costly to collect and not directly modifiable. Therefore, we assessed the relationships between veterans' satisfaction and measures of modifiable aspects of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health care programs.


For a sample of 6990 patients who received mental health care from the VHA in 2013, we used survey and administrative data to investigate the association of a suite of access and encounter satisfaction measures with a large collection of measures of program characteristics.


We estimated risk-adjusted correlations between 6 satisfaction measures (across 2 domains: access and encounter satisfaction) and 28 mental health care program characteristics (across 4 domains: program reach, psychosocial service access, program intensity, and treatment continuity).


We found that satisfaction with access to care was higher than experiences with care encounters, but that broad measures of mental health care program reach and intensity were positively associated with both kinds of satisfaction. No measures of psychosocial service access were positively associated with access and encounter satisfaction. Most measures of treatment continuity were consistently and positively associated with both kinds of satisfaction.


As the VHA strives to increase access to, and provision of, mental health care, policy makers and program managers should be aware that satisfaction with care, as it is currently measured, may not rise as more patients initiate treatment, unless continuity of care is maintained or enhanced.

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