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New Performance Measures to Spread Use of Medications for Opioid, Alcohol Abuse


New performance measures have been released for monitoring the use of medications designed to help patients end their dependence on opioids and alcohol, according to a Jan. 24 press release from The Washington Circle, a policy group focused on improving substance abuse treatment. 

The new measures are the first standard set for monitoring use of medications as part of individual treatment plans and are meant to be used in administrative claims and in electronic health records. They are designed to allow treatment providers and health plans to determine whether medications approved by the FDA for treating alcohol and opioid dependence are being prescribed for patients who could benefit from them. 

The performance measures were pilot-tested in a Washington Circle study led by Dr. Cindy Parks Thomas of Brandeis University and funded by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Based on data drawn from Medicaid, private health plans, and the Veteran’s Health Administration, the study found that “medication-assisted treatments were initiated in a timely manner in less than 20 percent of individuals who might benefit.”

“Medication assisted treatment (MAT) for these disorders is an effective practice that is largely underutilized,” said Thomas. “With the introduction of these new measures, it is now possible for health plans to track their performance in the use of this treatment. Such information can be made available to consumers so they can be better informed about the care delivered within their health plan.” 

Treatment providers, health plans, and insurers will be able to use the new measures. “Our goal is to have a suite of measures available to health care plans and providers that hopefully will accelerate the use of this evidence-based practice in treating addiction,” said Dr. Frank McCorry, who chairs the Washington Circle. “Not only will the use of MAT improve outcomes for patients, it will save money, since untreated addiction is a major driver of health care costs among persons with chronic health conditions.”

A related study, “Advancing performance measures for use of medications in substance abuse treatment,” appeared in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

For more information about the performance measures, contact The Washington Circle.

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