With increased coverage for treating substance use disorders, the Affordable Care Act presents an opportunity to improve quality of care. However, meaningful quality measures must be developed before patients, their families, and society can benefit from improved treatment.
Measuring Quality of Care
The quality of treatment for opioid use disorder affects health outcomes. RAND assessed quality of treatment for more than 32,400 patients who received care in the Veterans Affairs health system in 2007 and whose medical records indicated that they had an opioid use disorder. Researchers examined the records to see whether receiving recommended medical care for the disorder was associated with a lower risk of death for these patients in the year following treatment.
Deaths were as much as one-third lower among these patients if their care met three quality measures:
- opioids or common types of anxiety medications were not prescribed,
- patients received psychosocial counseling, and
- patients had quarterly visits with a physician.
This study is one of the first to assess how quality of treatment for opioid use disorder affects patient outcomes.
Quality of care may also be an issue if waivered physicians are unprepared to provide the comprehensive care required to treat opioid use disorder effectively. Quality may be especially important for racial/ethnic minorities, who may not be receiving effective treatment for opioid use disorders at the same rate as non-minorities.