Using assessment tools to improve addiction treatment

Ashley Addiction Treatment’s campus in Havre de Grace is using a standardized assessment tool to help those recovering from substance use disorder. (Submitted Photo)

The addiction treatment industry has struggled over the years to develop outcome metrics to help facilities improve patient care.

In an effort to identify which treatments work best, and to determine the success rate for long-term recovery from substance use disorder, Havre de Grace-based Ashley Addiction Treatment began using Trac9 Informatics, a standardized assessment tool.

The Trac9 system measures a patient’s response to treatment in real time, said James Ryan, Ashley’s vice president of clinical services.

“It gives us real data in real time while the patients are in our care and allows us to respond to their individualized needs in real time,” he said.

With the data, staff members are able to gauge the efficacy of psychosocial treatments, which have been historically difficult to measure.

Each week, patients complete a series of online assessments. Those in outpatient recovery receive a text or an email that allows them to access the web-based survey platform.

The survey focuses on a variety of factors, including past trauma and conditions such as depression, anxiety and craving levels, as well as such factors as optimism, spirituality and quality of life.

“We want to see people’s symptoms decrease and their resilience or their strength increase,” Ryan said.

Staff can assess, intervene and address specific patient needs by providing psychosocial treatments, therapeutic modalities and various types of counseling. The Trac9 system, adopted by Ashley in 2020, also gives staff members an overview of clinicians’ effectiveness, allowing them to match patients and providers more effectively.

“Our interdisciplinary treatment team uses this information to inform the patient’s treatment plan while they are in our care,” Ryan said. “We also show the patient their progress in treatment because we really want people to understand what is working.”

Ryan continued: “As human beings, we respond better when we get good feedback about how our behavior is changing the way we think and feel, and so for patients to see the actual progress that they are making in treatment is really powerful. It’s really cool to watch people start to see that they are getting well. That further increases their commitment to sobriety.”

Staff monitor the survey results and also keep track of patients’ behavioral signs, symptoms and engagement levels to corroborate the data.

“It is a part of a holistic system of care that we provide that allows us to see (if) their behavior (is) congruent with their self-reported symptoms,” Ryan said.

Ashley covers the cost of the Trac9 platform and does not pass it on to patients, Ryan said.

“We are working with insurance providers to demonstrate the efficacy of psychosocial treatments and improve their understanding of how good substance use disorder treatment works,” Ryan said.

The confidentiality of the survey information is protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

Patients don’t have to take part in the weekly assessments, but if they want to get the most out of their treatment they should participate, Ryan said.

“One of the most important things is that, as time goes on, we will get more and more data that we will be able to use to inform how we design treatment,” Ryan said. “We will also get more and more post-treatment data, so this system not only accesses the patient’s experience of treatment while they are with us, but it allows us to track them for a year post-treatment.”

The treatment center also plans to implement a system to track biometric data and to do genetic testing, Ryan said. Those efforts, combined with the Trac9 assessments, will create a sophisticated method of assessing an individual’s response to treatment and will inform their future treatment options, he explained.

“The goal is to create essentially a research engine that allows us to continuously move forward,” Ryan said. “We know the number of people suffering from substance use disorders is only climbing. We know that there have been more overdose deaths in the country in the last two years than ever before. We know there is a desperate need for us to continue to get more and more effective in treating substance use disorders.”

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