This component examines continuing care for drug abuse by developing linkages between specialty drug treatment and primary health care. The intervention is grounded in a chronic care framework, linking patients to primary care and integrating drug treatment with the larger health care system. This broader perspective speaks to the multiple and complex needs of individuals with drug disorders, and places their ongoing services in the context of mainstream medical care. Our approach is consistent with chronic care models for other medical conditions and with recent Institute of Medicine reports. The study setting is the drug treatment and primary care clinics of the San Francisco Medical Center of Northern California Kaiser Permanente, a large integrated managed care health plan. We will assign 700 drug treatment patients to the program's Usual Care, or to Usual Care plus Continuing Care. The Continuing Care intervention includes two group sessions based on a patient activation approach to increase drug treatment patients'overall health behavior and facilitate engagement with primary care;a linkage phone call between the primary care physician, drug treatment clinician, and the patient;and an orientation session for primary care physicians. The health plan's electronic medical record facilitates linkages between patients in the Continuing Care condition and their providers (including drug treatment guidelines and referrals available, and reminders to PC physicians). We propose a quasi-experimental 2-month alternating off/on design over a 20 month period in which, after a random start, the Continuing Care condition alternately is added to Usual Care in the clinic and then removed. Study participant follow-up includes interviews at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months and urinalysis, combined with analysis of medical records to examine treatment effects on outcomes and costs. The research is innovative in its emphasis on patient activation and integrating drug treatment with mainstream health care, as well as in its use of an electronic medical record and related technologies used to facilitate service linkages, to provide patients information, and to measure study outcomes. Key policy implications include improving health plan structures to facilitate durable links between drug treatment and primary care, and potential cost savings. We expect that the intervention vyill result in patients having higher patient activation scores, receiving more primary care services;having reduced drug use, including tobacco; improved health outcomes, and lower health care costs. If these outcomes are demonstrated, the Continuing Care intervention has the potential to be implemented in a variety of health care systems and to improve drug treatment services.
The research is relevant to NIDA's strategic plan of integrating drug treatment into general health care. It is innovative in its emphasis on patient activation and linking with mainstream health care, as well as in its use of an electronic medical record and related technologies to facilitate service linkages, provide patients information, and to measure study outcomes. Key policy implications include improving health plan structures that facilitate links between drug treatment and PC, and potential cost savings.
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