Public Release: 

New care model closes significant gap in addiction treatment

Study finds inpatient addiction consult service helps engage patients in medication treatment

Boston Medical Center

(Boston) - A new program at Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction is showing that connecting patients to addiction treatment when they are hospitalized for other conditions can be a powerful tool in closing a gap in addiction treatment. In fact, early results show that many of these patients continue treatment after they are discharged, underscoring the importance of reaching patients who might otherwise not get treatment for their addiction.

Approximately 17 percent of patients admitted at BMC have an active substance use disorder. This led providers to look for new ways to engage patients in addiction treatment when they were already here. To accomplish this, they developed and implemented an inpatient addiction consult service, which is staffed by a multidisciplinary care team with expertise in treating addiction.

"In order to help curb the epidemic, we need to take every opportunity to engage patients with substance use disorders and get them into treatment when they are ready," said study lead author Paul Trowbridge, MD, and graduate of BMC's addiction medicine fellowship. "This service will not only prove beneficial to patients, by helping them get access to evidenced-based treatment, but also to the health care system by reducing costs and readmissions."

Researchers found the initial results promising: Methadone treatment was initiated for 70 patients and 76 percent were linked to a methadone clinic upon discharge. Upon follow up, 54 percent were still receiving methadone at 30 days, 39 percent at 90 days, and 29 percent at 180 days. Buprenorphine was initiated in 40 patients as a result of the consult, and 49 percent were linked to an outpatient clinic at discharge. Upon follow up, 39 percent were still engaged in treatment at 30 days, 27 percent at 90 days and 18 percent at 180 days.

"Like heart disease can cause a heart attack or a stroke, addiction causes many acute injuries requiring immediate attention, but we can't simply treat that issue without delving deeper to address the root cause," said Alex Walley, MD, MSc, a general internist at BMC's Grayken Center for Addiction who also oversees the addiction medicine fellowship. "Our goal is to engage willing patients in treatment and work with them on a plan that will keep them healthy and safe now and in the future."

The authors note that treatment is not one size fits all and that there is a need for additional treatment programs and services that meet the needs of even more patients both in the short and long term.

This study was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

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About Boston Medical Center

Boston Medical Center is a private, not-for-profit, 487-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. Committed to providing high-quality health care to all, the hospital offers a full spectrum of pediatric and adult care services including primary and family medicine and advanced specialty care with an emphasis on community-based care. Boston Medical Center offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $117 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2016. It is the 13th largest recipient of funding in the U.S. from the National Institutes of Health among independent hospitals. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization. It does business in Massachusetts as BMC HealthNet Plan and as Well Sense Health Plan in New Hampshire, serving 290,000 people, collectively. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in the Boston HealthNet - 14 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit http://www.bmc.org.

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