Managing acutely ill substance-abusing patients in an integrated day hospital outpatient program: Medical therapies, complications, and overall treatment outcomes

Thomas P. O'Toole, Alicia Conde-Martel, J. Hunter Young, Jennifer Price, George Bigelow, Daniel E. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Substance-abusing adults are admitted to hospitals for medical complications from their drug and alcohol use at substantially higher rates than the general public; yet, their care is often defined by against medical advice (AMA) discharges and low rates of referral to addiction treatment programs. METHODS: We present findings from a chart review of consecutive admissions to an integrated medical-substance abuse treatment program designed for acutely ill, hospitalized substance using adults. We specifically looked at factors associated with program completion and medical complications in this cohort of at-risk adults. RESULTS: Overall, 83 patient cases were studied. The mean age was 41.2 years; most were African American (73.5%), male (68.7%), and homeless (77.1%). Heroin (96.4%) and cocaine (88.0%), followed by alcohol (44.6%) were the most commonly used substances before admission. The most common admitting diagnoses were infectious endocarditis (43.4%), abscess or nonhealing ulcer (18.1%), and osteomyelitis (13.3%) with intravenous antibiotic (68.7%), physical therapy (48.2%), or wound care (41.0%), the most commonly prescribed care on the integrated care/day hospital unit. The mean length of stay in the day hospital was 12.4 days. Overall, 69.9% of patients successfully completed their medical therapy, and 63.9% were successfully referred to an outpatient substance abuse treatment program. Only 10.8% required an unscheduled hospital readmission and 15.7% required an after-hours emergency department visit during their stay. CONCLUSION: Outpatient/day hospital-based integrated treatment is a viable option for medically ill substance-abusing adults who would otherwise be hospitalized and is associated with higher than expected completion rates and low rate of complications. Co-locating the unit at a hospital and integrating extensive social supports appear to be key components to this model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-576
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006



  • Health services delivery
  • Homeless
  • Medical complications
  • Substance abuse
  • Treatment outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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