Facilitators and Barriers in Implementing Buprenorphine in the Veterans Health Administration


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Abstract

Opioid dependence is a chronic, relapsing disorder that deleteriously influences the health of those afflicted. Sublingual buprenorphine opioid agonist treatment (OAT) has been shown to be safe, effective, and cost-effective for the treatment of opioid dependence in nonspecialized, office-based settings, including the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). We sought to examine and describe provider-, facility-, and system-level barriers and facilitators to implementing buprenorphine therapy within the VHA. From June 2006 to October 2007, we conducted semistructured telephone interviews of key personnel at a national sample of VHA facilities with high prevalence of opioid dependence and without methadone OAT programs. Sites were categorized based on the number of veterans receiving buprenorphine prescriptions: More Buprenorphine (MB, >40 prescriptions, 5 sites), Some Buprenorphine (SB, 5–40 prescriptions, 3 sites), and No Buprenorphine (NB, 0–5 prescriptions, 9 sites). Interviews were taped, transcribed, and coded; consensus of coding themes was reached; and data were evaluated using grounded theory. Sixty-two staff members were interviewed. For NB sites, perceived patient barriers included lack of need and attitudes/stigma associated with opioid dependence. Provider barriers included lack of interest, stigma toward the population, and lack of education about buprenorphine-OAT. Prominent facilitators at MB sites included having established need, provider interest, and resources/time available for buprenorphine-OAT. The presence of a champion/role-model for buprenorphine care greatly facilitated its implementation. We conclude that factors that enable or impede buprenorphine-OAT vary by facility. Strategies and policies to encourage implementation of buprenorphine should be adaptable and target needs of each facility.

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