Year: 2023 Source: Military Medicine. (2023). usad088. SIEC No: 20231440
Introduction Veteran patients have access to a broad range of health care services in the Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA). There are concerns, however, that all Veteran patients may not have access to timely care. The Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act was passed in 2018 to ensure that eligible Veterans can receive timely, high-quality care. The Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act makes use of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)–contracted care to achieve its goal. There are concerns, however, that these transitions of care may, in fact, place Veterans at a higher risk of poor health outcomes. This is a particular concern with regard to suicide prevention. No study has investigated suicide-related safety events in Veteran patients who receive care in VA-contracted community care settings. Materials and Methods A retrospective analysis of root-cause analysis (RCA) reports and patient safety reports of suicide-related safety events that involved VA-contracted community care was conducted. Events that were reported to the VHA National Center for Patient Safety between January 1, 2018, and June 30, 2022, were included. A coding book was developed to abstract relevant variables from each report, for example, report type and facility and patient characteristics. Root causes reported in RCAs were also coded, and the factors that contributed to the events were described in the patient safety reports. Two reviewers independently coded 10 cases, and we then calculated a kappa. Because the kappa was greater than 80% (i.e. 89.2%), one reviewer coded the remaining cases. Results Among 139 potentially eligible reports, 88 reports were identified that met the study inclusion criteria. Of these 88 reports, 62.5% were patient safety reports and 37.5% were RCA reports. There were 129 root causes of suicide-related safety events involving VA-contracted community care. Most root causes were because of health care–related processes. Reports cited concerns around challenges with communication and deficiencies in mental health treatment. A few reports also described concerns that community care providers were not available to engage in patient safety activities. Patient safety reports voiced similar concerns but also pointed to specific issues with the safety of the environment, for example, access to methods of strangulation in community care treatment settings in an emergency room or a rehabilitation unit. Conclusions It is important to strengthen the systems of care across VHA- and VA-contracted community care settings to reduce the risk of suicide in Veteran patients. This includes developing standardized methods to improve the safety of the clinical environment as well as implementing robust methods to facilitate communication between VHA and community care providers. In addition, Veteran patients may benefit from quality and safety activities that capitalize on the collective knowledge of VHA- and VA-contracted community care organizations.