Outcome data has become the hot topic in the healthcare field over the past few years. The more quality outcome data you have, the better treatment you can provide to those seeking recovery. In fact, without the data it is difficult to impossible to measure success. As treatment professionals standing on the firing line of addiction, it should be our goal to collect data in order to inform practices which support permanent sobriety.
Outcome measurement is a systematic way to assess the extent to which a program is achieving its intended results. There are a number of compelling reasons to measure outcomes:
- Measuring the effectiveness of an intervention. Without measuring outcomes, how can you tell if a particular program was effective (or not)? Was it more effective for people with an opiate addiction than someone who identifies as a meth user? If it’s not effective, wouldn’t you want to know so that improvements can be made?
- Identifying effective practices. By measuring outcomes, you are able to identify which programs are the most effective and build on them, using their success to help improve other services.
- Increasing value to your current and future patients. By measuring outcomes on the individuals you treat, you are able to better understand the specific needs of each type of client who comes to you for treatment. You will know that you have the best treatment available for their specific situation and you will be able to tell them so based on the data. People are increasingly savvy, and they are beginning to ask for more than just assurances that you can help when trying to pick a treatment provider.
- Providing value to the payors. Payors are keenly aware of the need to document the success of programs, and they are increasingly putting the burden for this onto the provider.
We knew that we were having a positive impact on the people who came through Origins, and we knew that many of them were staying sober, enjoying recovery and sponsoring others. What we didn’t know was exactly how many were staying sober, or which of our programs were the most effective at helping our clients lead the types of lives that they wanted to live. Things were going well, but we always want to improve what we do because we realize that, at the end of the day, lives are at stake in a very real way. We needed more information if we were going to make the kind of improvements to our services we were hoping to achieve.
In 2011, Origins made the decision to provide post-treatment recovery support. We accessed multiple vendors and ultimately made the decision to hire MAP Recovery Support. This not only added more than a year to the continuum of care for every Origins patient, it also allowed us to begin collecting large amounts of outcome data on our alumni. Many EMRs include an “outcomes” module, but these only measure outcomes while the client is actually in treatment. We realized that for the data to have any real meaning it had to be collected over an extended period of time after the client left our facility. For greatest accuracy, outcome data must be captured as close to the source as possible, including direct data capture from patients themselves and from their families, and it should always be collected by a third party. By the time one of our clients finishes the program, we have collected more than 3000 individual data points from the client, family and his Recovery Support Specialist. This in-depth, longitudinal data provides us with a nearly infinite number of data correlations that can be mined for information about what we are doing well, and where we can improve.
Over the course the last 3.5 years we have collected more than a million data points on our clients, and that number goes up every day. The information we have gleaned from examining the data has directly impacted portions of our treatment program, and the positive effects these changes have made on outcomes can be measured in the data as well. Through outcome data, we can watch the ripple effect of Origins’ programs as our alumni go on to impact the lives of others. This impact extends not only to the family members of Origins’ clients, but the lives of those still suffering from addiction. We can see that our alumni are of service, that they sponsor others and that they truly carry the message of recovery with them. We remain committed to the outcome measurement process because it continues to improve our effectiveness in combating the disease of addiction. Furthermore, it enables us to closely examine the lasting impression that well-designed treatment can have on the recovery community at large.