Addiction Treatment Programs Manage Data Inefficiently

Researchers at the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the flow of data in eight substance abuse treatment agencies for three major processes—admission, discharge and transfer between levels of care.

The purpose was to understand how agencies collect and use data to support billing and ancillary systems and meet reporting requirements, and to provide a foundation for evaluating performance more effectively.

Key Findings

  • Half of the surveyed programs reported that their electronic systems were completely or partially integrated. Full integration was defined as having linked their information technology (IT) capacity across billing and client data, at all levels of care and at all program locations.
  • Treatment programs tended to manage data inefficiently and have few protocols guiding information management. Barriers to better data management included lack of integrated IT; limited funding, time and staff to develop and implement IT-related changes; and divergent staff skills and attitudes toward IT.
  • Treatment agencies with more integrated health IT were able to expedite and improve the flow of information. Strengths of integrated systems include enhanced productivity, improved communication among intake, clinical and administrative staff, and an increased focus on data that allows information to be shared among stakeholders.