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Evaluating and Improving Engagement in Care After High-Intensity Stays for Mental or Substance Use Disorders.

Schmidt EM, Wright D, Cherkasova E, Harris AHS, Trafton J. Evaluating and Improving Engagement in Care After High-Intensity Stays for Mental or Substance Use Disorders. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2022 Jan 1; 73(1):18-25.

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OBJECTIVE: This interrupted time-series analysis examined whether activating a quality measure, supported by education and a population management tool, was associated with higher postdischarge engagement (PDE) in outpatient care after inpatient and residential stays for mental or substance use disorder care. METHODS: Discharges from October 2016 to May 2019 were identified from national Veterans Health Administration (VHA) records representing all 140 VHA health care systems. Engagement was defined as multiple mental or substance use disorder outpatient visits in the 30 days postdischarge. The number of such visits required to meet the engagement definition depended on a patient's suicide risk and acuity level of inpatient or residential treatment. Health care system-level performance was calculated as the percentage of qualifying discharges with 30-day PDE. A segmented mixed-effects linear regression model tested whether monthly health care system performance changed significantly after activation of the PDE measure (activation rollout period, October-December 2017). RESULTS: A total of 322,344 discharges qualified for the measure. In the regression model, average health care system performance was 65.6% at the beginning of the preactivation period (October 2016) and did not change significantly in the following 12 months. Average health care system performance increased by 5.7% (SE = 0.8%, p < 0.001) after PDE measure activation and did not change significantly thereafter-a difference representing 11,464 more patients engaging in care than would have without activation of the measure. CONCLUSIONS: Results support use of this measure, along with education, technical assistance, and population management tools, to improve engagement after discharge from residential and inpatient mental and substance use disorder treatment.

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