Association Between Process Based Quality Indicators and Mortality for Patients With Substance Use Disorders

Published in: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 78, Number 4 (July 2017), pages 588-596. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2017.78.588

Posted on on September 01, 2017

by Susan M. Paddock, Kimberly A. Hepner, Teresa J. Hudson, Songthip Ounpraseuth, Amy M. Schrader, Greer Sullivan, Katherine E. Watkins

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Substance use disorders (SUDs) are associated with elevated rates of mortality. Little is known about whether receiving appropriate care is associated with lower mortality for patients with SUDs. This study examined the association between the receipt of care for SUDs and subsequent 12 and 24 month mortality.


This was a retrospective cohort study of veterans who received care for SUDs paid for by the Veterans Health Administration during October 2006 September 2007 (n = 339,966). Logistic regressions were used to examine the association between quality indicators measuring receipt of care and mortality while controlling for patient characteristics and facility service area.


There were four quality indicators: SUD treatment initiation, SUD treatment engagement, SUD related psychosocial treatment, and SUD related psychotherapy. Outcomes measured were mortality 12 and 24 months after the end of the observation period, through September 2009. Receipt of indicated care ranged from 26.5% to 58.6%, and 12 and 24 month mortality rates were 3% and 6%, respectively. Adjusted odds ratios [95% CI] of 12 month mortality by indicator were: initiation, 0.86 [0.79, 0.93]; engagement, 0.65 [0.58, 0.74]; psychosocial treatment, 0.88 [0.84, 0.92]; and psychotherapy, 0.84 [0.79, 0.89]. For the 24 month mortality outcome, adjusted odds ratios were: initiation, 0.88 [0.84, 0.93]; engagement, 0.78 [0.71, 0.85]; psychosocial treatment, 0.91 [0.88, 0.94]; and psychotherapy, 0.87 [0.83, 0.91]. Results were similar when controlling for facility service area.


Receiving appropriate care is associated with lower mortality for patients with SUDs. Significant overall and within facility service area associations of quality indicators and mortality support their use in encouraging providers to deliver the indicated care. These indicators should be prioritized above others lacking comparably strong process outcome associations.

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