Objective: Many veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs (VA) health care systems also receive care through other health care systems. Both VA and non-VA health care use must therefore be considered when conducting research in this population. This study characterized dual-care utilization in veterans with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and explored associations with RA disease activity. Methods: Through a questionnaire mailed to RA patients at 3 VA sites, veterans reported medical services by non-VA primary care and subspecialty providers, comorbidities, non-VA medications, and hospitalizations. Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28) and Multidimensional Health Assessment Questionnaire (MD-HAQ) scores were recorded during VA clinic visits, and respondent groups were compared. Results: Of the 510 participants surveyed, 318 (62%) responded. Respondents were older (ages 69 versus 66 years; P = 0.006), more likely nonsmokers (80% versus 67%; P = 0.001), and had lower disease activity (DAS28 3.3 versus 3.8; P < 0.001, MD-HAQ 0.8 versus 0.9; P = 0.01) than nonrespondents (n = 192 [38%]). The respondents with a non-VA provider (n = 130 [41%]) were older (71 versus 68 years; P = 0.001) and had more education (14 versus 13 years; P = 0.021) than nondual-care users. Only 6% of respondents reported having a non-VA rheumatologist, with 2% receiving a non-VA prescribed biologic agent or disease-modifying antirheumatic drug. Conclusion: In this study, VA beneficiaries with RA had lower dual-care utilization than previously reported for the general VA population, with few patients receiving dual rheumatology care or non-VA RA medications. This survey suggests that most US veterans with RA who access VA care use the VA as their primary source of arthritis care.
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