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Outpatient continuing care after residential substance use disorder treatment in the US Veterans Health Administration: Facilitators and challenges.
Rubinsky AD, Ellerbe LS, Gupta S, Phelps TE, Bowe T, Burden JL, Harris AHS. Outpatient continuing care after residential substance use disorder treatment in the US Veterans Health Administration: Facilitators and challenges. Substance Abuse. 2017 Dec 5; 39(3):322-330.
In the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA), residential treatment programs are an important part of the continuum of care for patients with substance use disorders (SUDs). Outpatient continuing care after residential treatment helps maintain early recovery and treatment gains. Knowing more about the drivers of variation in continuing care practices and performance across residential programs might inform quality improvement efforts.
Metrics of continuing care were operationalized and calculated for each of VHA's 63 SUD Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs (SUD RRTPs) and 34 Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs (MH RRTPs) with a SUD track in fiscal year 2012. Management and frontline staff of these programs were then interviewed to learn what factors might contribute to high or low program performance on the metrics compared with national averages.
Among SUD RRTPs, the mean rate of outpatient SUD/MH continuing care was 59% within 7 days and 80% within 30 days, and the mean rate of SUD continuing care was 63% within 30 days. Among MH RRTPs with a SUD track, these rates were 56%, 75%, and 36%, respectively. There was substantial variability in continuing care rates across the 97 programs: 21%-93% for SUD/MH care within 7 days, 36%-100% for SUD/MH care within 30 days, and 4%-91% for SUD care within 30 days. Interviews with representatives of 44 programs revealed key facilitators of continuing care: accountability of program staff, predischarge scheduling, predischarge introductions to continuing care providers, strong patient relationships, accessibility, and persistent emphasis. Key challenges included inadequate program staffing, lack of program staff accountability, and poor accessibility.
Wide variation in continuing care rates across programs and identification of common facilitators at high-performing programs suggest substantial opportunity for improvement for programs with lower performance.