Background: In the US, emergency room visits and overdoses related to prescription opioids have soared and the rates of illicit opioid use, including heroin and fentanyl, are increasing. Opioid use disorder (OUD) is associated with higher morbidity and mortality, higher HIV and HCV infection rates, and criminal behavior. Opioid agonist therapy (OAT; methadone and buprenorphine) is proven to be effective in treating OUD and decreasing its negative consequences. While the efficacy of OAT has been established, too few providers prescribe OAT to patients with OUD due to patient, provider, or system factors. While the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has made great strides in OAT implementation, national treatment rates remain low (35% of patients with OUD) and several facilities continue to have much lower prescribing rates. Methods: Eight VA sites with low baseline prescribing rates (lowest quartile, < 21%) were randomly selected from the 35 low prescribing sites to receive an intensive external facilitation implementation intervention to increase OAT prescribing rates. The intervention includes a site-specific developmental evaluation, a kick-off site visit, and 12 months of ongoing facilitation. The developmental evaluation includes qualitative interviews with patients, substance use disorders clinic staff, and primary care and general mental health leadership to assess site-level barriers. The site visit includes: (1) a review of site-specific barriers and potential implementation strategies; (2) instruction on using available dashboards to track prescribing rates and identify actionable patients; and (3) education on OAT, including, if requested, buprenorphine certification training for prescribers. On-going facilitation consists of monthly conference calls with individual site teams and expert clinical consultation. The primary outcomes is the proportion of Veterans with OUD initiating and sustaining OAT, with intervention sites expected to have larger increases in prescribing compared to control sites. Final qualitative interviews and a cost assessment will inform future implementation efforts. Discussion: This project will examine and respond to barriers encountered in low prescribing VHA clinics allowing refinement of an intervention to enhance access to medication treatment for OUD in additional facilities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by VA Health Services Research and Development IIR 16-145.
- Implementation science
- Opioid agonist therapy
- Substance use disorder