Veterans Health Administration and Indian Health Service: Healthcare Utilization by Indian Health Service Enrollees

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The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) have executed an agreement to share resources to improve access and health outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) veterans.


To describe the extent of dual use, health needs, and utilization patterns for IHS-enrollees served by VHA and IHS. Our objective is to fill those gaps in knowledge to inform strategic planning between these federal agencies.


Secondary data analysis of linked and merged VHA and IHS centralized administrative data from FY02 and FY03.


Of 64,746 IHS enrollees who used VHA and/or IHS, 25% accessed care at both healthcare organizations, whereas most used either the VHA (28%) or the IHS (46%). The proportion of dual users varied markedly by state. Like all other VHA users, these AIAN veterans have the same 3 most frequent diagnoses associated with healthcare encounters: posttraumatic stress disorder, hypertension, and diabetes. VHA-IHS dual users were more likely to receive primary care from IHS and to receive diagnostic and behavioral healthcare from VHA. Many dual users who had been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and/or cardiovascular disease received overlapping attention in VHA and IHS.


Strategies to improve outcomes for AIAN veterans should target those receiving care in both systems and include information sharing or coordination of clinical care to reduce the potential for duplication and for treatment conflicts. Strategies to improve access may differ regionally.

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