The evolution of changes in primary care delivery underlying the Veterans Health Administration's quality transformation

Am J Public Health. 2007 Dec;97(12):2151-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.115709. Epub 2007 Oct 30.


Objectives: Suffering from waning demand, poor quality, and reform efforts enabling veterans to "vote with their feet" and leave, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) health care system transformed itself through a series of substantive changes. We examined the evolution of primary care changes underlying VA's transformation.

Methods: We used 3 national organizational surveys from 1993, 1996, and 1999 that measured primary care organization, staffing, management, and resource sufficiency to evaluate changes in VA primary care delivery.

Results: Only rudimentary primary care was in place in 1993. Primary care enrollment grew from 38% in 1993 to 45% in 1996, and to 95% in 1999 as VA adopted team structures and increased the assignment of patients to individual providers. Specialists initially staffed primary care until generalist physicians and nonphysican providers increased. Primary care-based quality improvement and authority expanded, and resource sufficiency (e.g., computers, space) grew. Provider notification of admissions and emergency department, urgent-care visit, and sub-specialty-consult results increased nearly 5 times.

Conclusions: Although VA's quality transformation had many underlying causes, investment in primary care development may have served as an essential substrate for many VA quality gains.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Health Care Reform
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / trends
  • Practice Management, Medical / trends
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / trends*
  • Program Development
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Quality of Health Care / trends*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs*