Ann Intern Med. 2021 Apr 6. doi: 10.7326/M20-5475. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Hospitalized patients with comorbid substance use disorders (SUDs) are at high risk for poor outcomes, including readmission and emergency department (ED) use.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether patient navigation services reduce hospital readmissions.
DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial comparing Navigation Services to Avoid Rehospitalization (NavSTAR) versus treatment as usual (TAU). (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT02599818).
SETTING: Urban academic hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, with an SUD consultation service.
PARTICIPANTS: 400 hospitalized adults with comorbid SUD (opioid, cocaine, or alcohol).
INTERVENTION: NavSTAR used proactive case management, advocacy, service linkage, and motivational support to resolve internal and external barriers to care and address SUD, medical, and basic needs for 3 months after discharge.
MEASUREMENTS: Data on inpatient readmissions (primary outcome) and ED visits for 12 months were obtained for all participants via the regional health information exchange. Entry into SUD treatment, substance use, and related outcomes were assessed at 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up.
RESULTS: Participants had high levels of acute care use: 69% had an inpatient readmission and 79% visited the ED over the 12-month observation period. Event rates per 1000 person-days were 6.05 (NavSTAR) versus 8.13 (TAU) for inpatient admissions (hazard ratio, 0.74 [95% CI, 0.58 to 0.96]; P = 0.020) and 17.66 (NavSTAR) versus 27.85 (TAU) for ED visits (hazard ratio, 0.66 [CI, 0.49 to 0.89]; P = 0.006). Participants in the NavSTAR group were less likely to have an inpatient readmission within 30 days than those receiving TAU (15.5% vs. 30.0%; P < 0.001) and were more likely to enter community SUD treatment after discharge (P = 0.014; treatment entry within 3 months, 50.3% NavSTAR vs. 35.3% TAU).
LIMITATION: Single-site trial, which limits generalizability.
CONCLUSION: Patient navigation reduced inpatient readmissions and ED visits in this clinically challenging sample of hospitalized patients with comorbid SUDs.
PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: National Institute on Drug Abuse.