Without metrics, how do you rate drug treatment facilities?

With no national standard to measure drug treatment facilities, new research reveals opportunities to learn from patients to help create metrics.

Almost 10 percent of the nation’s entire population lives with substance use disorder, but many struggle to find the right help—a task which is made more difficult because there is no standardized rating system to ensure the quality of care within specialized drug treatment facilities. Even the efforts that do exist to evaluate these entities don’t seem to be aligned with the central concerns of patients, according to a new study from Penn Medicine researchers which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

overhead view of a rehab patient with arms crossed and a counselor with a clipboard

Using a machine learning application, researchers uncovered the most common themes associated with facilities’ reviews on Google and Yelp, then compared them to a survey run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—the most widespread evaluation method currently used for these facilities. However, that survey is intended to be an inventory of services provided and not patient satisfaction, so only 7 percent of its codes aligned themes from the patient reviews.

“It would be prudent of us to have a comprehensive method of defining quality, capturing data and adjusting care to be both meaningful and patient-centered at treatment facilities,” says lead author Anish Agarwal, an assistant professor of emergency medicine. “Without these considerations, we’re attempting to tackle a component of the opioid epidemic without taking into account the voices of those who are actually seeking help.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.