The Challenges for Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in Addiction Treatment

Executive Briefing | January 1, 2009


The Challenges for Implementing Evidence- Based Practices in Addiction Treatment

For more than thirty years the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) has been representing some of the most pre-eminent addiction treatment programs in the country. Ronald J. Hunsicker, DMin, FACATA, president and chief executive officer, brings a unique perspective in mental health and addiction treatment programs – in addition to leading NAATP since 1997, he has been working in the field, and in pastoral care, for over twenty-five years. Dr. Hunsicker, in a presentation on using information technology to meet the challenges of evidence-based practices, at the Institute for Behavioral Health Informatics, discussed the challenges for accessing data to identify evidence-based practices in addiction treatment.

The seven challenges for identifying evidence based practices in addiction treatment include:

  • Abuse vs. dependence. In a public health model, providers can address both issues; in an insurance payment-driven model, providers can only address dependence.

  • Recovery vs. harm reduction. There has not been universal agreement on the goal of addiction treatment, making it difficult to talk about ‘evidence based treatment’ or top performers.

  • Acute model vs. chronic model. “If our goal is to manage this chronic disease for the life of the individual, then how do we measure?”

  • Open life record vs. closed treatment episode. Providers of addiction treatment need to determine a way to link a medical record to a patient, not to an organization.

  • Recovery oriented systems of care vs. isolated islands of care. “We do not have an integrated addiction treatment delivery system in this country,” Dr. Hunsicker emphasizes, “we know a lot about the disease of addiction, but not a lot about recovery.” For example, can technology help with the patient who lives in Virginia, receives stabilization in California, goes for step-down treatment in Florida, and begins life-long management in Arizona?

  • Data vs. information. How can providers take data, in isolated bits, and turn it into information, or relational data?

  • Outcome/results driven vs. treatment completion. Currently public and private systems of treatment are not integrated and not connected. Ideally, it would be better if providers could treat patients in an integrated system rather than in an isolated program.

For more on Dr. Hunsicker’s presentation, OPEN MINDS Circle members may click here for access to “Using Information Technology to Meet the Challenges of Implementing Evidence-Based Practices.” This presentation is free for the next thirty days to The OPEN MINDS Circle members.

Not a member? Click here to register, it’s free and easy.

Interested readers may also wish to access “Integration of Mental Health/Substance Abuse & Primary Care“. This report, available to OPEN MINDS Premium Circle members, is based on research conducted by the Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center under contract to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The information in this report is intended to help clinicians, employers, policymakers, and others make informed decisions about the provision of health care services.

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