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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2006 Jun;30(4):337-47.

A practical system for monitoring the outcomes of substance use disorder patients.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Center for Health Care Evaluation, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.


Outcomes monitoring and management are receiving mounting attention because of increased emphasis on health care accountability and cost containment. Efficient, practical outcomes monitoring systems (OMSs) are crucial if health care system performance is to be determined and effective/cost-effective treatments are to be identified, but such practical monitoring systems generally are lacking. This article describes the features of such a system for monitoring the care received by, and the substance use and psychosocial outcomes of, patients treated for substance use disorders (SUDs) in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In contrast to a 15-21% follow-up rate achieved by VA SUD program staff under a previously mandated system-wide monitoring system, the monitoring system used in this project achieved a 67% follow-up rate without paying patients for their participation. We provide data on patient characteristics and treatment outcomes, estimate the cost of implementing this type of monitoring system on a broad scale, and provide recommendations for OMSs in other large health care organizations.

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