Finding Answers To Substance Use Disorders
Research into health behavior change often focuses on the barriers and pitfalls people face when trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle – and how to overcome them. In the search for solutions to substance use disorder and more specifically the opioid overdose epidemic currently facing the U.S., one project at the Centene Center for Health Transformation™ is taking a different approach: gaining a greater understanding of what actually works.
David Patterson Silver Wolf, associate professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, has been looking into the behavior profiles and success predictors of substance use disorder treatment in small-scale research projects. He’s found a number of variables that can influence success, including availability of health insurance; access to social support systems; presence of a primary care physician; and even similarity in age, race, or gender between patient and provider. The data, however, is limited.
Now, through the Centene Center partnership, Patterson Silver Wolf is bringing his research to a whole new level with access to multiple Centene data sources representing millions of de-identified health plan members. He can dig deeper into why some people are able to end their dependence on alcohol, drugs, and prescription pain medications while others aren’t and begin mapping out those effective pathways.
“In large data sets you often look at predictors of disease or diagnoses and the people who are failing in the system without really understanding what is ‘the stew of success,” said Dr. Patterson Silver Wolf. “What do successful people look like? How do they behave?”
With the Centene data, Patterson Silver Wolf says his team will be able to answer a lot of important questions.
Some of those answers will likely influence initiatives underway at Centene to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. Misuse of prescription pain medications is now the number one cause of accidental death in the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services, with 91 people each day dying from an opioid overdose.
Patterson Silver Wolf is also starting to look at predictors of success related to providers with the goal of providing more strategic treatment direction. “We are Americans, so there’s a pill for that,” says Patterson Silver Wolf of most current opioid addiction treatment regimens. “You can’t just rely on a pill solving the consequences of another pill, give someone another pill, and send them on their merry way.”
For Centene, the impact of these study results will be smart, targeted services. Knowing the best pathways to end substance use disorders will lead to more effective behavior change in both patients and providers. For Patterson Silver Wolf and other investigators at the Centene Center, the ability to analyze large data sets means the potential to answer many key questions and broaden their course of inquiry.