Background: Older veterans may use both the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Medicare, but the association of dual use with health outcomes is unclear. We examined the association of indirect measures of dual use with mortality.
Methods: Our secondary analysis used survey, claims, and National Death Index data from the Survey on Assets and Health Dynamics among the Oldest Old. The analytic sample included 1,521 men who were Medicare beneficiaries. Veterans were classified as dual users when their self-reported number of hospital episodes or physician visits exceeded that in their Medicare claims. Veterans reporting inpatient or outpatient visits but having no Medicare claims were classified as VHA-only users. Proportional hazards regression was used.
Results: 897 (59%) of the men were veterans, of whom 134 (15%) were dual users. Among dual users, 60 (45%) met the criterion based on inpatient services, 54 (40%) based on outpatient services, and 20 (15%) based on both. 766 men (50%) died. Adjusting for covariates, the independent effect of any dual use was a 38% increased mortality risk (AHR = 1.38; p = .02). Dual use based on outpatient services marginally increased mortality risk by 45% (AHR = 1.45; p = .06), and dual use based on both inpatient and outpatient services increased the risk by 98% (AHR = 1.98; p = .02).
Conclusion: Indirect measures of dual use were associated with increased mortality risk. New strategies to better coordinate care, such as shared medical records, should be considered.