Integration of primary care into the substance use disorder outpatient treatment setting

Publication Date


UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Nursing

Document Type



Nursing | Primary Care | Substance Abuse and Addiction


BACKGROUND: Americans experiencing substance use disorder (SUD) carry a significant chronic disease burden, yet only half use primary care. Patients in treatment for SUD who are connected with primary care typically have better overall health outcomes.

LOCAL PROBLEM: The identified intensive outpatient program (IOP) had no protocol in place to engage patients with primary care.

METHODS: This project piloted the development and implementation of an original, evidence-based primary care integration program. It consisted of a psychoeducation group, a referral by case management, and establishment of an internal referral process to affiliated primary care providers (PCPs).

INTERVENTIONS: Following the psychoeducation group, pre and posttests of patient-reported knowledge and attitudes regarding primary care were compared. Participants were contacted to collect further data after IOP discharge. An education and feedback session was held with affiliated PCPs, and an internal referral process was devised by leadership.

RESULTS: Mean scores measuring patient knowledge and attitudes regarding primary care increased after participation in the structured psychoeducation group. By time of IOP discharge, 100% (n = 12) of participants had either a referral or scheduled appointment with a PCP in place. At time of follow-up, 90% (n = 9) reported that they had attended or planned to attend their scheduled PCP appointment.

CONCLUSIONS: A comprehensive integration program in the IOP setting can improve patient engagement with primary care. Quality improvement implementation will require consideration of challenges faced during the pilot involving scheduling, staff buy-in, changes in patient acuity, the electronic medical record, and insurance.


Integration, intensive outpatient program, primary care, recovery, substance use

DOI of Published Version



Wasserman R, Terrien J. Integration of primary care into the substance use disorder outpatient treatment setting. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2020 Jun 23;33(8):652-660. doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000432. PMID: 32590443. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID