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Patient Engagement with Primary Care Improves Outcomes

December 16, 2022

Clinician-researchers in San Francisco wanted to see if connecting people with a primary care provider–and building their skills in interacting with that provider–when they entered treatment for a substance use disorder would improve outcomes.

Over the course of 2.5 years, they randomized people entering outpatient addiction treatment to two groups. One group, the control group, would get the standard of care–a ten day stabilization program followed by six weeks of groups, counseling and other interventions. The intervention group would receive the standard of care, plus an intervention known as LINKAGE. A total of 500 people were in the study, with half in each group.

The LINKAGE intervention worked with participants on engaging with clinicians, navigating electronic patient portals, and developing health- and recovery-related goals. LINKAGE also included a connection with a primary care provider that included a discussion of these goals.

The researchers followed the two groups for five years to see whether the LINKAGE intervention would make a difference. They specifically looked for outcomes after one, two and five years. They found that people in the LINKAGE group:

  • After one year, were more likely to talk about their substance use problems with their primary care provider;
  • Across all years, were more likely to log into the patient portal and use it for their care; and
  • Had fewer substance-related visits to the emergency department.

More research is needed to demonstrate the benefits of interventions such as LINKAGE on other outcomes related to substance use, including overdose. However, this study shows the potential promise of interventions that provide opportunities for patients to have an active role in their health care and connect them with primary care providers.