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Specifying and Pilot Testing Quality Measures for the American Society of Addiction Medicine's Standards of Care

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In 2013, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) approved its Standards of Care for the Addiction Specialist Physician. Subsequently, an ASAM Performance Measures Panel identified and prioritized the standards to be operationalized into performance measures. The goal of this study is to describe the process of operationalizing 3 of these standards into quality measures, and to present the initial measure specifications and results of pilot testing these measures in a large health care system. By presenting the process rather than just the end results, we hope to shed light on the measure development process to educate, and also to stimulate debate about the decisions that were made.


Each measure was decomposed into major concepts. Then each concept was operationalized using commonly available administrative data sources. Alternative specifications examined and sensitivity analyses were conducted to inform decisions that balanced accuracy, clinical nuance, and simplicity. Using data from the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA), overall performance and variation in performance across 119 VHA facilities were calculated.


Three measures were operationalized and pilot tested: pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder, pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder, and timely follow-up after medically managed withdrawal (aka detoxification). Each measure was calculable with available data, and showed ample room for improvement (no ceiling effects) and wide facility-level variability.


Next steps include conducting feasibility and pilot testing in other health care systems and other contexts such as standalone addiction treatment programs, and also to study the specification and predictive validity of these measures.

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