Study looks at how pay-for-performance programs affect drug treatment

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 20, 2012

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Paying those working with drug-addicted teens for adhering to an evidence-based treatment protocol improves implementation but does not lead to increased remission rates, according to a study published online Aug. 13 in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers at the Lighthouse Institute, part of Chestnut Health Systems in Normal, Ill., randomized therapists at 29 community-based treatment organizations either to receive additional training in adolescent substance abuse or to get training and additional payments for demonstrating competence in the program. About 8.9% of therapists in the control group showed competence in the treatment protocol, but this went up to 24% in the pay-for-performance group. A total of 17.3% of patients got at least seven treatment sessions in the pay-for-performance group, but this decreased to 2.5% in the control group. There was no difference in remission rates.

The authors of the study and an accompanying editorial concluded that although pay-for-performance programs are becoming widespread and appear to change how medical personnel treat patients, more research is needed to determine whether these types of initiatives benefit patients (link).

Greater understanding is needed to determine if it is better for payment to be made for the amount of improvement or for meeting certain goals.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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