Facility-level changes in receipt of pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder: Implications for implementation science

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Services Administration | Mental and Social Health | Military and Veterans Studies | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


BACKGROUND: The U.S. is facing an opioid epidemic, but despite mandates for pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder to be available at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, the majority of veterans with opioid use disorder do not receive these medications. In implementation research, facilities are often targeted for qualitative inquiry or quality improvement efforts based on quality measure performance during a one-year period. However, sites that experience quality performance changes from one year to the next may be highly informative because mechanisms that impact facility change may be more discoverable. The current study examined changes in receipt of pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder in a national healthcare system to determine the extent to which sites fluctuated in performance over a two-year period and illustrate how changes in quality measures over time may be useful for implementation research and healthcare surveillance of quality measures. METHODS: Using national VHA data from Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 and 2017, we calculated quality measure performance as the number of patients who received pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder (i.e., methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone) divided by the number of patients with a current non-remitted opioid use disorder diagnosis for each FY at each facility (n=129) and examined change from FY16 to FY17. RESULTS: The mean rate of receipt of pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder was 38% (facility range=3% to 74%) in FY16 and 41% (facility range=2% to 76%) in FY17. The average facility-level change in performance was 3% and ranged from -19% to 26%. There were 32 facilities that decreased in provision of pharmacotherapy, 12 facilities with no change, and 85 facilities that increased. CONCLUSIONS: For facilities with average or high performance, it was difficult to maintain their performance over time. Identifying and learning from facilities with recent fluctuations may be more informative to guide the design of future quality improvement efforts than studying facilities with stable high or low performance.


Buprenorphine, Implementation science, Methadone, Opioid-related disorders, Pharmacotherapy, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

DOI of Published Version



J Subst Abuse Treat. 2018 Dec;95:43-47. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2018.09.006. Epub 2018 Oct 2. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of substance abuse treatment

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID