Health Care Systems

Promote primary prevention.

Health care systems can help prevent prescription drug misuse and related substance use disorders by holding staff accountable for safe prescribing of controlled substances, training staff on alternative ways of managing pain and anxiety, and increasing use of PDMPs by pharmacists, physicians, and other providers.

Promote use of evidence-based treatments.

Substance use disorders cannot be effectively addressed without much wider adoption and implementation of scientifically tested and proven effective behavioral and pharmacological treatments. The full spectrum of evidence-based treatments should be available across all contexts of care, and treatment plans should be tailored to meet the specific needs of individual patients. Health care systems should take every step to educate health care professionals and the public about the value of MATs for alcohol and opioid use disorders, correcting misconceptions that have barred their wider adoption in the past.

Promote effective integration of prevention and treatment services.

Effective integration of behavioral health and general health care is essential for identifying patients in need of treatment, engaging them in the appropriate level of care, and ensuring ongoing monitoring of patients with substance use disorders to reduce their risk of relapse. Implementation of systems to support this type of integration requires care and foresight and should include educating and training the relevant workforces; developing new workflows to support universal screening, appropriate follow-up, coordination of care across providers, and ongoing recovery management; and linking patients and families to available support services. Quality measurement and improvement processes should also be incorporated to ensure that the services provided are effectively addressing the needs of the patient population and improving outcomes.

Work with payors to develop and implement comprehensive billing models.

Consideration of how payors can develop and implement comprehensive billing models is crucial to enabling health care systems to sustainably implement integrated services to address substance use disorders. Coverage policies will need to be updated to support implementation of prevention measures, screening, brief counseling, and recovery support services within the general health care system, and to support coordination of care between specialty substance use disorder treatment programs, mental health organizations, and the general health care system.

Implement health information technologies to promote efficiency and high-quality care.

Health information technology—ranging from electronic health records to patient registries, computer-based educational systems, and mobile applications—has the power to increase efficiency, improve clinical decision making, supplement patient services, extend the reach of the workforce, improve quality measurement, and support a “learning health care system.” Health care systems should explore how these and other technologies can be used to support substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery.

For More on This Topic

See the definition of "Learning Health Care System" in Chapter 6 - Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders – 2016 (PDF | 1.2 MB).