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Outcomes and costs of matching the intensity of dual-diagnosis treatment to patients' symptom severity.

Chen S, Barnett PG, Sempel JM, Timko C. Outcomes and costs of matching the intensity of dual-diagnosis treatment to patients' symptom severity. Journal of substance abuse treatment. 2006 Jul 1; 31(1):95-105.

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This study evaluated a patient-treatment matching strategy intended to improve the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acute treatment for dual-diagnosis patients. Matching variables were the severity of the patient's disorders and the program's service intensity. Patients (N = 230) with dual substance use and psychiatric disorders received low or high service-intensity acute care in 1 of 14 residential programs and were followed up for 1 year (80%) using the Addiction Severity Index. Patients' health care utilization was assessed from charts, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) databases, and health care diaries; costs were assigned using methods established by the VA Health Economics Resource Center. High-severity patients treated in high-intensity programs had better alcohol, drug, and psychiatric outcomes at follow-up, as well as higher health care utilization and costs during the year between intake and follow-up than did those in low-intensity programs. For moderate-severity patients, high service intensity improved the effectiveness of treatment in only a single domain (drug abuse) and increased costs of the index stay but did not increase health care costs accumulated over the study year. Moderate-severity patients generally had similar outcomes and health care costs whether they were matched to low-intensity treatment or not. For high-severity patients, matching to higher service intensity improved the effectiveness of treatment as well as increased health care costs. Research is needed to establish standards by which to judge whether the added benefits of high-intensity acute care justify the extra costs.

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