Public Health and Primary CareOriginal Article

Perceptions of Physicians in Civilian Medical Practice on Veterans’ Issues Related to Health Care

Todd Robert Fredricks, DO, and Masato Nakazawa, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Accepted: February 5, 2015

Published: June 1, 2015

J Osteopath Med; 115(6): 360-368

Context: The percentage of total US residents in the military is lower than ever before. Many civilians, including civilian physicians, have little knowledge of US military actions or the day-to-day experiences and working environments of veterans.

Objectives: To assess civilian physician knowledge of veterans’ issues using a survey.

Methods: A 10-item survey was distributed to physicians at 2 primary care–focused medical conferences in Ohio to determine self-reported levels of comfort and familiarity with veteran-oriented topics.

Results: Of 350 surveys that were distributed, 141 surveys were returned. Of the 141 respondents, 101 practiced primary care, 19 practiced internal medicine, 16 practiced other specialties, and 5 did not report a specialty affiliation and were excluded from final analysis. A single respondent reported pediatrics as a specialty but indicated “not applicable“ for all answers. This individual was excluded from final analysis. Overall, physicians reported feeling moderately comfortable with military terminology and uncomfortable with the diagnosis and management of traumatic brain injury. More than half of the respondents indicated that they were not comfortable discussing health-related exposures and associated risks that veterans might experience and that they were unfamiliar with referral and consultation services for veterans. The data collected had a high degree of reliability (Cronbach α=0.88). Respondents of both primary care and internal medicine specialties scored statistically significantly higher than the other respondents in questions on veterans’ medical conditions, military terminology, and military health risks (P<.05), although these 2 groups scored similarly (P>.05). Specialty orientation did not affect responses for questions on other topics (P>.05).

Conclusions: The data indicated an overall moderate level of familiarity among civilian physicians with veterans’ issues. The results did not reveal an overall high level of comfort with any issues included in the survey. More research is needed to determine reasons behind the findings and methods to improve civilian physician comfort with various veterans’ issues.

Read Full Article