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Cureus. 2015 Jan 07;7(1):e240. doi: 10.7759/cureus.240. eCollection 2015 Jan.

Validity Assessment of Referral Decisions at a VA Health Care System Polytrauma System of Care.


Joyce Chung, Fatima Aguila, Odette Harris


  1. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Palo Alto Health Care System.
  2. Social Work, VA Palo Alto Health Care System.
  3. Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine.

PMID: 26180664 PMCID: PMC4494525 DOI: 10.7759/cureus.240


There has been intensive interest to ensure equitable and appropriate access to the specialized rehabilitative services of the VA Polytrauma System of Care (PSC) for patients sustaining polytrauma and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A retrospective cohort study with prospective data acquisition was conducted to assess validity and objectivity of the acceptance decision algorithm to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) PSC. Our hypotheses are (1) VAPAHCS PSC referral decisions were appropriate and without bias and (2) the identified needs of redirected referrals were addressed. This analysis included 1,025 referrals (906 patients); 813 patients (89.7%) were accepted, and 93 (10.3%) were redirected. Redirected cases were older, were more often active duty service members, and were not from the West Coast. There were more females redirected due to concomitant spinal cord injury. These are rationale differences. In redirected patients, the most commonly identified rehabilitation needs were psychological support, mobility/physical therapy, and communication/speech services; >75% of patients had these services offered elsewhere outside of the PSC resources. While balancing financial stewardship and meeting our mission to provide outstanding rehabilitative care to veterans and service members, we demonstrated that acceptance decisions were valid and without bias, and redirected patients received appropriate alternate resources.

Keywords: admissions; decision-making; military; polytrauma; referrals; rehabilitation; rehabilitation needs; resources; traumatic brain injury; veterans


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