UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Improving hospital care for patients who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, Canada Ti, Lianping


Background: People who use illicit drugs (PWUD) experience a number of health-related harms that often lead to frequent hospitalizations. However, there exists little scientific evidence that has explored utilization and retention in hospital care, including leaving hospital against medical advice (AMA), among this population. The objective of this thesis is to provide evidence to improve hospital care for PWUD by first, identifying individual and contextual factors associated with leaving hospital AMA and other hospital-related experiences; and, second, to use these findings to develop and evaluate novel approaches to minimizing the risks and harms that PWUD experience in hospital settings. Methods: This dissertation draws on data collected from two open prospective cohort studies of HIV-positive and HIV-negative PWUD in Vancouver, Canada. These data were confidentially linked to a hospital discharge database as well as comprehensive records of HIV treatment and related clinical outcomes through a clinical monitoring laboratory. A variety of longitudinal and cross-sectional analytic techniques were used to examine the impact of intersecting individual and contextual factors on various hospital service outcomes. Results: This dissertation identified hospitals as a risk environment for PWUD, given the high prevalence of hospital discharge AMA and active illicit drug use in hospitals. The study findings highlighted various risk and protective factors for leaving hospital AMA, and discussed the negative consequences of being denied pain medication on illicit drug use in hospitals. The findings from this dissertation also point to novel strategies that may address these issues, including the implementation of an adult HIV/AIDS integrated health program operating in proximity to a hospital to minimize hospital discharge AMA among HIV-positive PWUD, as well as the potential for an in-hospital supervised injection facility (SIF) to reduce the harms associated with illicit drug use in hospital. Conclusion: Despite this setting of universal access to healthcare, there are individual- and contextual-level factors that play a pivotal role in shaping utilization and retention in hospital care among PWUD. The collective findings of this dissertation offer insights into how integrated harm reduction-based interventions may mitigate the risks associated with leaving hospital AMA and active illicit drug use in hospitals.

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