Addressing morbidity, mortality and health care costs among patients evaluated for addiction care in acute care settings

Substance use disorders account for a significant burden of disease among Canadians and place an enormous burden on the acute care system. The annual cost of harms associated with substance use in Canada is estimated to be approximately $40 billion, with health care being the single largest contributor. In British Columbia (BC) there is clear urgency to address this challenge, given the recent steady increase in hospitalization rates due to substance use and the unprecedented number of drug overdose deaths prompting the recent declaration of a public health emergency.

While in hospital, individuals with a substance use disorder often have access to evidence-based addiction care, though successfully transitioning these individuals from acute to community settings remains a key clinical and research challenge. Specifically, this patient population often leaves hospital against medical advice, may be non-adherent to addiction care recommendations and often requires costly repeat hospital readmissions. Addressing these circumstances is critical, given the enormous cost implications and opportunity for more effective addiction services to dramatically reduce morbidity and mortality.

Specifically, investigating acute substance use needs and long-term solutions in acute care through after-care environments presents an urgent clinical health research priority given the frequent intersection between individuals with a substance use disorder and hospital environments. To address this, the proposed research project will establish a prospective cohort study of hospitalized individuals with a substance use disorder who are assessed for treatment of their addiction. Individuals will complete a one-time questionnaire and provide consent to the use of their personal identifiers for linkage to a variety of health care databases to allow for ongoing community follow-up over a five-year period. Creation of this study will offer the unique opportunity to identify patient characteristics of individuals accessing addiction care in the hospital setting, evaluate patient flow and predictors of outcome between hospital and community settings and determine subsequent health outcomes and health care utilization. In doing so, this research platform will generate evidence that will contribute to future interventions and knowledge advancement, and help inform best practices for the optimal delivery of addiction treatment to this population with high morbidity and mortality.