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Humana study shows success of linking population health, substance abuse treatment

Proactive engagement reduced hospitalizations, overall healthcare costs

A yearlong study by Humana and health management service provider Catasys determined that a population health-based approach to treating substance abuse improved enrollment in treatment programs while reducing hospitalizations as well as overall healthcare costs.

The study used claims analysis to identify individuals at risk for medical and psychiatric complications from substance abuse. Participants were then "proactively engaged" in treatment and care coaching from Nov. 1, 2013 to Oct. 31, 2014. The enrollment rate for this approach was 17.6 percent, compared to a national average of 10.9 percent, the insurer said.

Over the course of the 52-week study, the 151 participants incurred 16 percent fewer emergency room visits and 67 percent fewer inpatient hospitalizations than prior to the program. Their overall healthcare costs dropped an average of 46 percent, while those of 2,198 non-participants in the study rose an average of 14 percent, Humana said.

The Affordable Care Act's mental health coverage mandates may strain the medical system, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. However, the results of the Humana study seem to indicate that providing access to such services as part of broader population health management initiatives can reduce that strain.

"The improved health outcomes results clearly reflect the benefits that population health can achieve by integrating substance abuse programs," Larry Weinstein, M.D., chief medical officer for LifeSynch, Humana 's behavioral health services subsidiary, said in a statement. "By taking a proactive approach, as opposed to a reactive one, we were able to reach people at risk for medical and psychiatric complications from substance use disorders."

For more:
- read the Humana statement

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