Schmidt, Eric M. PhD; Gupta, Shalini MS; Bowe, Thomas PhD; Ellerbe, Laura S. MS; Phelps, Tyler E. MLIS, MS; Finney, John W. PhD; Humphreys, Keith PhD; Trafton, Jodie PhD; Vanneman, Megan E. PhD; Harris, Alex H.S. PhD, MS

Objectives: Care coordination for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment is a persistent challenge. Timely outpatient follow-up after detoxification from alcohol and opiates is associated with improved outcomes, leading some care systems to attempt to measure and incentivize this practice. This study evaluated the predictive validity of a 7-day outpatient follow-up after detoxification quality measure used by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Methods: A national sample of patients who received detoxification from alcohol or opiates (N = 25,354) was identified in VHA administrative data. Propensity score-weighted mixed-effects regressions modeled associations between receiving an outpatient follow-up visit within 7 days of completing detoxification and patient outcomes, controlling for facility-level performance and clustering of patients within facilities.

Results: Baseline differences between patients who did (39.6%) and did not (60.4%) receive the follow-up visit were reduced or eliminated with propensity score weighting. Meeting the quality measure was associated with significantly more outpatient treatment for SUD (b = 1.07 visits) and other mental health conditions (b = 0.58 visits), and higher inpatient utilization for SUD (b = 0.75 admissions) and other mental health conditions (b = 0.76 admissions). Notably, meeting the quality measure was associated with 53.3% lower odds of 2-year mortality (P < 0.001 for all).

Conclusions: These findings support the predictive validity of 7-day follow-up after detoxification as a care coordination measure. Well-coordinated care may be associated with higher outpatient and inpatient utilization, and such engagement in care may be protective against mortality in people who receive detoxification from alcohol or opiates.


Getting substance abuse patients to keep follow-up appointments is notoriously difficult.  It make sense that this would be a good quality indicator.


Dr. Raymond Oenbrink