Financial sustainability of payment models for office-based opioid treatment in outpatient clinics

Dominic Hodgkin, Constance Horgan, Gavin Bart

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) is a delivery model which seeks to make medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), particularly buprenorphine, widely available in general medical clinics and offices. Despite evidence supporting its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, uptake of the OBOT model has been relatively slow. One important barrier to faster diffusion of OBOT may be the financial challenges facing clinics that could adopt it. Methods: We review key features and variants of the OBOT model, then discuss different approaches that have been used to fund it, and the findings from previous economic analyses of OBOT’s impact on organizational finances. We conclude by discussing the implications of these analyses for the financial sustainability of the OBOT delivery model. Results: Like other novel services, OBOT poses challenges for providers due to its reliance on services which are ‘non-billable’ in a fee-for-service environment. A variety of approaches exist for covering the non-billable costs, but which approaches are feasible depends on local payer policies. The scale of the challenges varies with clinic size, organizational affiliations and the policies of the state where the clinic operates. Small clinics in a purely fee-for-service environment may be particularly challenged in pursuing OBOT, given the need to fund a dedicated staff and extra administrative work. The current pandemic may pose both opportunities and challenges for the sustainability of OBOT, with expanded access to telemedicine, but also uncertainty about the durability of the expansion. Conclusion: The reimbursement environment for OBOT delivery varies widely around the US, and is evolving as Medicare (and possibly other payers) introduce alternative payment approaches. Clinics considering adoption of OBOT are well advised to thoroughly investigate these issues as they make their decision. In addition, payers will need to rethink how they pay for OBOT to make it sustainable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number45
JournalAddiction Science and Clinical Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Buprenorphine
  • Financial sustainability
  • Medicaid
  • Medication treatment of opioid use disorder
  • Office-based opioid treatment
  • Payment models
  • Reimbursement


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