With scarce treatment resources, substance abuse treatment programs are increasingly required to show that the treatment services they provide are a good investment. Not only do some funding agencies require cost information to justify reimbursement for services provided, but other agencies may require that providers demonstrate certain levels of treatment effectiveness within a range of acceptable costs (e.g., the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA's] proposed National Outcome Measures). Given these needs, providers and funding agencies have a constant demand for up-to-date, detailed treatment cost information. Service-level costing helps satisfy this demand by providing detailed cost and resource use information. Service cost estimates inform providers and funding agencies about the unit costs of treatment services;when combined with service utilization and outcomes data, service cost estimates also inform about cost-effectiveness for specific treatment services that can help with decisions regarding the best allocation of resources across different treatment services. Cost data are typically collected using paper-and-pencil surveys, a process that can be costly and time consuming, leading to delays in disseminating cost information. Delays in obtaining the data occur because questionnaires must be physically sent between respondents and surveyors. Delays in analyzing the data occur because responses must be manually coded and entered into a database for analysis. Paper surveys also are at risk for human error in data coding and data entry that can lead to further delays. As part of continuing efforts to improve cost estimation for drug abuse treatment, we have developed a Web Substance Abuse Services Cost Analysis Program (SASCAP) survey. This survey is designed to collect identical cost and resource use information as the paper SASCAP (Zarkin, Dunlap, and Homsi, 2004), but it capitalizes on the advantages offered by Web surveys. We propose to compare the Web SASCAP against the usual paper SASCAP in a sample of methadone treatment programs to determine if the Web SASCAP can yield similar cost estimates to the paper SASCAP and to determine if the Web survey is a more economical and less burdensome way to collect service cost data for drug abuse treatment programs. We also plan to validate both surveys to financial records maintained by the programs. The Web SASCAP will help researchers and government agencies disseminate information on the costs of treatment programs and health interventions without excessive costs and lengthy delays, and it will promote prompt and easier collection of cost data. With the increasing expansion of the Internet in the health care environment, the Web SASCAP could become an integral component of research and evaluation data.
Treatment providers and funding agencies have a constant demand for up-to-date, detailed treatment cost information. Service-level costing helps satisfy this demand by providing detailed cost and resource use information, but current paper-and-pencil survey methods used to collect these data can be quite costly and burdensome to programs and data collectors. This study proposes to evaluate a Web-based cost data collection and estimation methodology to determine if the Web cost survey can yield similar estimates as a traditional paper survey and to determine if a Web cost survey is a more economical and less burdensome way to collect service cost data for substance abuse treatment programs.