MAT-LINK Evaluation Overview

Image showing data flowing in the background

CDC’s MATernaL and Infant NetworK to Understand Outcomes Associated with Medication for Opioid Use Disorder during Pregnancy (MAT-LINK) funds clinical sites to monitor maternal, infant, and child health outcomes related to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) during pregnancy.

The information on this page shares findings from an evaluation across four clinical sites and three collaborating organizations. The purpose of the evaluation was to improve processes and record key lessons learned about MAT-LINK’s ability to provide information about health outcomes across opioid use disorder treatments. Data on this page were collected in 2021 using three sources: 1) a literature review, 2) key informant interviews with partners and 3) an analysis of pilot data.

Key Informant Interviews Highlight MAT-LINK’s Performance

Several features of the system were checked including its timeliness, flexibility, acceptability, data quality, and interoperability. Interviews (n=16) with key informants were analyzed to check each feature and understand the system’s performance. The following table (Table 1) shows some of the findings from the interviews.

Table 1: Findings from Key Informant Interviews
System Feature Interview Quotes Evaluation Findings


Time required to collect, analyze, and disseminate information; system meets a pressing public health need

“The tools used for MAT-LINK help streamline data submission for all types of sites (both with and without technical expertise) which allows for timely data submission.”
  • Allows for routine data collection from electronic health records that can be analyzed and disseminated rapidly
  • Quickly fills knowledge gaps about the opioid crisis to inform public health actions


Ability to respond to new requirements or public health needs

“Not many changes are needed to accommodate a new site. Adding new variables is straightforward and easily doable.”
  • Can easily add or change variables and clinical sites


Perceptions of clinical sites regarding the benefits of participation as well as the time and effort required

“We see lots of strengths in MAT-LINK, namely that it will be a combined data source with more statistical power, diversity, and lots of follow up.”
  • Sites are enthusiastic about shared goals
“The timelines are aggressive.”
  • High burden and underestimation of the effort in getting the data
Data Quality

Data Quality

Validity and completeness of the data

“MAT-LINK accesses data in a different way than other projects. It gives the sites the tools to check and clean the data before submission to the CDC.”
  • Data quality could not be fully assessed because only a portion of pilot data were available
  • Early indications of high validity due to data quality control measures


Use of data standards and availability of the data to other researchers

“MAT-LINK uses XML schemas to transport data between sites and CDC. These are MAT-LINK standardized “data contracts” that could potentially be used to help with interoperability with other systems from a transport standpoint.”
  • Other systems can use the data collected because variables have standard definitions and coding

Lessons Learned

Evaluation findings show common challenges with the system which may be helpful for other systems, such as:

  • Groups that organize surveillance data collection often do not know about partners’ challenges in getting the data. By asking about challenges, partners can learn more information for improving systems and processes.
  • It is not easy to collect specific information from electronic health records. This requires a team of professionals and clinicians.
What’s Next?

CDC hopes to improve the performance and longevity of the system in the following ways:

  • Focus more closely on the main outcomes of interest and variables that capture the same outcomes in different ways.
  • Improve how data are collected by providing fast feedback and tracking of data submitted.
  • Change standard operating procedures and manuals into trainings and how-to videos as requested by sites.
  • Create more opportunities for site principal investigators to share ideas and practices across Phase 1 and Phase 2 sites.
  • Improve how MAT-LINK works with other systems by creating datasets that other scientists can use.
  • Create standards for requesting data in line with privacy regulations.