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ASAM Standards of Care: The Challenges of Care Transitions and Coordination

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Coordinating addiction treatment for the substance user is a complicated, multi-faceted process. That is why ASAM created standards for the collaboration between primary care, specialty care, and addiction treatment providers. ASAM acknowledges that confidentiality and regulatory compliance laws make the exchange of data between clinical providers challenging. Yet the addiction treatment provider must overcome these challenges and serve as the hub in a multi-spoke wheel of clinical care in order to reach treatment goals.

This article, the fifth in a series of articles about ASAM standards of care, explores some of the challenges involved in coordination of care and care transitions for addicted patients.

Addiction Treatment and Care Coordination

SAMHSA offers guidelines on care coordination agreements as tools to “ensure quality care and establish protocols for supporting effective care transitions.” Creating these clinical care modalities between certified community behavioral health clinics and other healthcare providers governs the transfer of data and care coordination between a plethora of service providers, including urgent care centers, hospitals, step-down programs, and much more. 

Addiction treatment

Addiction treatment providers serve as the central point in a dispersed healthcare delivery system.

ASAMs guidelines help govern these relationships. Their standards of care include:

  • Standard V.1: Treatment coordination and confidentiality.
    The addiction treatment provider must serve as care coordinator and adjust the treatment plan for changes in patient health. This evaluative process should look closely at the medications used, mitigating factors affecting the likelihood of relapse, changes in the availability of treatment, and more. This also includes responsibility for the release of patient confidential information to other providers as well as payers. 
  • Standard V.2: Providing Quality in Care Transitions.
    Interestingly, ASAMs standards in this area are very thin; they simply say that the addiction treatment provider must include “a biopsychosocial evaluation, patient preferences, and the patient’s history of responses to previous attempts at treatment.” For elaboration, look to SAMHSA’s recommendations on tracking and following up during care transitions. They recommend care coordination protocols between all addiction treatment, mental health, and other medical care providers, as well as social service agencies. 
  • Standard V.3: Protecting the privacy of patient data and confidentiality.
    The difficulties inherent in sharing confidential patient data is addressed in this standard. It is clear that the addiction treatment professional is responsible for gathering the appropriate permissions for data sharing from the patient. If the patient declines to share data, the addiction treatment provider should educate the patient on the dangers related to poor care coordination.
  • Standard V.4: Provider referrals.
    When a patient terminates addiction treatment, changes or leaves a provider, or transitions to a different care level, the addiction treatment provider should counsel the patient by providing referrals and recommendations to continue his or her efforts to recover. Providing community resources, outpatient services, or other treatment or self-management options is an important part of the care continuum.

With these standards in place, it is clear that addiction treatment professionals hold an incredibly important role in the behavioral health and substance use care paradigm. Their role is to not only develop the treatment plan that will help patients on the road to recovery but also to coordinate care across the healthcare field while monitoring privacy laws that help protect their patients.

Are you a physician looking to coordinate the transfer of care for one or more of your patients to an accredited drug rehab facility? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.