Early impacts of a multi-faceted implementation strategy to increase use of medication treatments for opioid use disorder in the Veterans Health Administration

Allison M. Gustavson, Jennifer P. Wisdom, Marie E. Kenny, Hope A. Salameh, Princess E. Ackland, Barbara Clothier, Siamak Noorbaloochi, Adam J. Gordon, Hildi J. Hagedorn

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BACKGROUND: Despite the risk of negative sequelae from opioid use disorder (OUD) and clinical guidelines for the use of effective medication treatment for OUD (M-OUD), many Veterans Health Administration (VHA) providers and facilities lag in providing M-OUD. An intensive external facilitation intervention may enhance uptake in low-adopting VHA facilities by engaging stakeholders from multiple clinical settings within a facility (e.g., mental health, primary care, pain specialty clinic, substance use disorder clinics). Our study identified pre-intervention determinants of implementation through qualitative interviews, described strategies employed during the first 6 months of intensive external facilitation, and explored patterns of implementation determinants in relation to early outcomes.

METHODS: Guided by the integrated-Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (i-PARIHS) framework, we interviewed stakeholders at low-adopting VHA facilities prior to external facilitation, employed a rapid qualitative analytic process, presented findings during facility visits, and collaboratively created facilitation action plans to achieve goals set by the facilities that would increase M-OUD uptake. The primary outcome was the Substance Use Disorder (SUD)-16, which is a VHA facility-level performance metric consisting of the percent of patients receiving M-OUD among those with an OUD diagnosis. We examined the relationship between pre-implementation factors and 6-month SUD-16 outcomes.

RESULTS: Across eight VHA facilities, we interviewed 68 participants. Implementation determinants included barriers and facilitators across innovation, context, and recipients constructs of i-PARIHS. Each facility selected goals based on the qualitative results. At 6 months, two facilities achieved most goals and two facilities demonstrated progress. The SUD-16 from baseline to 6 months significantly improved in two facilities (8.4% increase (95 % confidence interval [CI] 4.4-12.4) and 9.9% increase (95% CI 3.6-16.2), respectively). Six-month implementation outcomes showed that the extent to which M-OUD aligns with existing clinical practices and values was a primary factor at all facilities, with six of eight facilities perceiving it as both a barrier and facilitator. External health system barriers were most challenging for facilities with the smallest change in SUD-16.

CONCLUSIONS: Early impacts of a multi-faceted implementation approach demonstrated a strong signal for positively impacting M-OUD prescribing in low-adopting VHA facilities. This signal indicates that external facilitation can influence adoption of M-OUD at the facility level in the early implementation phase. These short-term wins experienced by stakeholders may encourage continued adoption and long-term sustainability M-OUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalImplementation Science Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 15 2021

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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