Underutilization of the current clinical capacity to provide buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorders within the Veterans Health Administration

Helen Valenstein-Mah, Hildi Hagedorn, Chad L. Kay, Melissa L. Christopher, Adam J. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a critical concern among US veterans. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) recommends buprenorphine as a first-line treatment for OUD; however, only 35% of veterans with an OUD currently receive medication treatment. Practical barriers, including the capacity of providers to prescribe, may affect delivery of buprenorphine. We examined the current state of buprenorphine treatment within the VHA. Methods: National VHA administrative databases were queried to identify all providers credentialed to prescribe buprenorphine as of January 2018. Data were extracted on providers’ prescribing capacity (30, 100, or 275 patients concurrently) and number of patients who received buprenorphine in the prior 180 days. Results: A total of 1458 VHA providers were credentialed to prescribe buprenorphine. Forty-three percent of providers had not prescribed buprenorphine to any VHA patients in the past 180 days. Of those that prescribed to at least 1 patient, providers still prescribed to fewer patients than their capacity, regardless of their patient panel size (30, 100, or 275), prescribing to 18.5 patients on average. Conclusions: VHA providers are prescribing buprenorphine below their capacity. A multipronged approach to increase the number of credentialed providers and address barriers to prescribing is needed to ensure that veterans get effective treatment for OUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-288
Number of pages3
JournalSubstance Abuse
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018

Keywords

  • Buprenorphine
  • opioid use disorder
  • veterans

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

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