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Polaris awarded NIH funding for substance abuse treatment referral system

October 8, 2010
by Press Release
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Langhorne, PA — The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded Polaris Health Directions $750,000 in funding for the next development phase of its substance abuse and HIV treatment referral system (STaRS) for primary care providers.

In today’s family practice environment, substance abuse among patients is often unaddressed—the time and operational constraints are too great. But untreated substance abuse translates into higher morbidity rates, premature mortality and, ultimately, inflated healthcare costs. STaRS is Polaris’s answer to the call for a fast and effective means for substance abuse detection and treatment referral.

The computer-based system enables physicians to screen for problem substance use, and refer patients to services for alcohol treatment or HIV screening with a click of the mouse. STARS automatically selects a provider based upon insurance, location and other key factors, and transmits a referral along with the patient’s contact information.

“For primary care patients who have been suffering from an untreated substance disorder or living with HIV, the STaRS system can help ensure that their conditions will be detected and that a targeted referral will be made to specialty care,” said Dr. Grant Grissom, CEO of Polaris Health Directions and the project’s principal investigator.

The second phase of development will focus on the referral component of the system. In collaboration with the family practice division of the Cooper Health System, in Camden, NJ, the Polaris research team will investigate whether using STaRS will improve the chances that patients with addictions or HIV will receive a referral, follow through with treatment and keep their appointments. STaRS will also be added to Cooper Health’s electronic health record system to demonstrate ease of integration into a primary care practice, and clinician acceptance of STaRS as part of their clinical routine will be evaluated.

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