Kaiser Permanente’s Early Start Program Could Serve as Intervention for Substance Abuse

Kaiser Permanente has recently published the results of their online study helping at-risk pregnant women with obstetric care. The program could save almost $2 billion yearly towards health care costs in the United States if implemented. According to Medical News Today, the new Early Start program follows a 2008 study by Kaiser Permanente that showed how women could achieve safer health outcomes for themselves and their babies by not using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Nancy C. Goler with The Permanente Medical Group in California, says they have proven their program reduces stillbirths and deaths among mothers and their infants. Goler adds that not only can they show everyone the program is a smart plan, but it will also save enormous amounts of money while serving as a possible means of intervention.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente studied over 49,000 women by conducting tests in urine toxicology and also surveying them regarding their substance abuse history. They found the study yielded $5 million annually as a net cost benefit. If implemented nationwide, the program could save almost $2 billion for every 4 million babies born each year.

A major part of the programs’ success is because of its accessibility to patients. Early Start is located at the clinics where the pregnant women obtain their normal prenatal care. Goler says this way the appointments can be coordinated with the Early Start specialist and the women’s health care provider. She hopes this will eventually happen with all clinicians moving prevention programs to their prenatal health care sites.

Originally launched over 20 years ago, the Early Start program combines obstetric care alongside treatment for substance abuse with at-risk women where all patients and providers are informed about the dangerous effects of substance abuse during pregnancy.