From patient outcomes to system change: Evaluating the impact of VHA's implementation of the Whole Health System of Care

Barbara G. Bokhour, Justeen Hyde, Benjamin Kligler, Hannah Gelman, Lauren Gaj, Anna M. Barker, Jamie Douglas, Rian DeFaccio, Stephanie L. Taylor, Steven B. Zeliadt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe how a partnered evaluation of the Whole Health (WH) system of care—comprised of the WH pathway, clinical care, and well-being programs—produced patient outcomes findings, which informed Veterans Health Administration (VA) policy and system change. Data Sources: Electronic health records (EHR)-based cohort of 1,368,413 patients and a longitudinal survey of Veterans receiving care at 18 WH pilot medical centers. Study Design: In partnership with VA operations, we focused the evaluation on the impact of WH services utilization on Veterans' (1) use of opioids and (2) care experiences, care engagement, and well-being. Outcomes were compared between Veterans who did and did not use WH services identified from the EHR. Data Collection: Pharmacy records and WH service data were obtained from the VA EHR, including WH coaching, peer-led groups, personal health planning, and complementary, integrative health therapies. We surveyed veterans at baseline and 6 months to measure patient-reported outcomes. Principal Findings: Opioid use decreased 23% (31.5–6.5) to 38% (60.3–14.4) among WH users depending on level of WH use compared to a secular 11% (12.0–9.9) decrease among Veterans using Conventional Care. Compared to Conventional Care users, WH users reported greater improvements in perceptions of care (SMD = 0.138), engagement in health care (SMD = 0.118) and self-care (SMD = 0.1), life meaning and purpose (SMD = 0.152), pain (SMD = 0.025), and perceived stress (SMD = 0.191). Conclusions: Evidence developed through this partnership yielded key VA policy changes to increase Veteran access to WH services. Findings formed the foundation of a congressionally mandated report in response to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, highlighting the value of WH and complementary, integrative health and well-being programs for Veterans with pain. Findings subsequently informed issuance of an Executive Decision Memo mandating the integration of WH into mental health and primary care across VA, now one lane of modernization for VA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • *evaluation design and research
  • VA health care system
  • health care organizations and systems
  • health policy/politics/law/regulation
  • patient assessment/satisfaction


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