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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: Ensuring High-Quality Care | Table of Contents: Fall 2016 | Download this issue

From the Acting Chief Research and Development Officer


 VA Secretary Robert McDonald is seen addressing the American Legion national convention in 2015. He spoke to the group again in August 2016, focusing on improvements in access and wait times.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald is seen addressing the American Legion national convention in 2015. He spoke to the group again in August 2016, focusing on improvements in access and wait times. (Photo by Robert Turtil)

VA Secretary Robert McDonald is seen addressing the American Legion national convention in 2015. He spoke to the group again in August 2016, focusing on improvements in access and wait times. (Photo by Robert Turtil)

VA's need to improve Veterans' access to timely and high-quality care has been much in the news lately. In August, Secretary Bob McDonald told the American Legion at its national convention that "more Veterans are coming to VA for care, and waiting less time."

In his speech, the Secretary said that in 2015, Veterans had nearly 4 million more appointments than in 2014. Almost 57 million of those appointments were in VA facilities, and more than 16.8 million were for VA care in communities.

Today, the Secretary continued, the average wait time is about five days for primary care; six days for specialty care; and two days for mental health care. He added Veterans should expect same-day access in primary care and mental health care by December 2016.

These are impressive accomplishments and ambitious goals. I am proud of the important role VA research has played in achieving them, by working to identify innovative strategies that can improve access and quality, especially for Veterans who may face barriers to care—including rural Veterans and racial or ethnic minorities.

VA research groups dedicated to ensuring high-quality VA care include two Centers of Innovation (COINs). The mission of the Center for Comprehensive Access & Delivery Research and Evaluation (CADRE) is to develop, implement and test innovative strategies that expand access to high-quality primary and specialty care, while ensuring that the care delivered is safe and free of preventable infections.

Researchers with the Health Equity and Rural Outreach Innovation Center (HEROIC) work toimprove access and equity in health care for all Veterans by eliminating geographic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based disparities.

VA's Collaborative Research to Enhance and Advance Transformation and Excellence (CREATE) Initiative encourages investigators to collaborate with VA partners for research on high-priority issues that affect Veterans' health care. The Improving Rural Veterans' Access/Engagement in Evidence-based Mental Healthcare CREATE seeks to inform VA policy-making and program development regarding mental health services delivered in CBOCs.

And VA's Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) uses research evidence to improve clinical practice. I'd like to highlight three QUERI programs, in particular, that relate to the theme of this issue:

On a related note, our Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) has established a Network of Dedicated Enrollment Sites (NODES). The goal is to have a consortium of VA medical centers with teams, or nodes, in place dedicated to enhancing the performance, compliance, and management of CSP's large multisite clinical trials and observational studies, as well as the Million Veteran Program. NODES and the VA Women's Health Practice-based Research Network are now working together to share best practices in conducting studies involving women, and providing tools for meeting the needs of women interested in participating in clinical research.

In his speech, Secretary McDonald told the American Legion that "we're making important progress. But you never hear that in the media. You'd never know we lead in many fields of research that benefit all Americans—PTSD, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, prosthetics, genetics."

In this issue of VA Research Quarterly Update, we provide information on the important progress we are making in these and other areas. I'm proud of the contributions we have made, and are making, to ensuring high-quality care for America's Veterans—and I thank you for taking the time to read about them. I hope you enjoy this issue of VARQU.

David Atkins, M.D., M.P.H.

David Atkins, M.D., M.P.H.
Acting Chief Research and Development Officer


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