The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


A Penn Medicine study released on Mar. 16 found staff dedication is key to patient satisfaction in substance abuse treatment facilities.

Credit: Max Mester

Staff dedication is key to patient satisfaction in substance abuse treatment facilities, according to a study by Penn Medicine researchers.

The study, published on March 16 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, was led by assistant professor of emergency medicine Anish Agarwal. Researchers used machine learning algorithms to analyze the text of online reviews of more than 500 substance abuse treatment facilities, Penn Medicine News reported. Reviews with comments related to staff dedication were associated with positive experiences, while comments about professionalism and communication were strongly correlated with negative reviews.

Group therapy experience and inpatient rehabilitation were also associated with positive reviews, while wait times in facility and management were common among negative reviews, Penn Medicine News reported.

Assistant professor of computer science Sharath Guntuku, a co-author of the study, told Penn Medicine News that analyzing reviews allows researchers to better understand patient perspectives of the rehabilitation process.  

“We felt that this would provide a great deal of insight into the patient experience,” Guntuku told Penn Medicine News. “Tapping into user-generated reviews offers a way to understand their narrative.”

Although the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration runs a survey on substance abuse facilities, the survey is generally an inventory of services at each facility rather than an indicator of patient satisfaction, Penn Medicine News reported. Given the lack of nationwide studies evaluating and comparing treatment facilities, Agarwal told Penn Medicine News he hopes the group’s findings can help identify what drives positive patient recovery experiences.

Drug rehabilitation programs have gained attention in recent years, as the opioid epidemic has spread across communities in the U.S, and public opinion in the United States has shifted from punitive to treatment-based drug policy. Still, many centers offer expensive treatment methods not backed by science, leading to low success rates and leaving families in debt. 

“We hope such findings can be used to improve patient-centered addiction care,” Agarwal told Penn Medicine News.