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What Contributes to Sustainability? Examining Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder in Low-Adopting VHA Facilities.

Ackland PE, Kenny ME, Clothier BA, Salameh HA, Boening N, Gordon AJ, Noorbaloochi S, Gustavson AM, Miller W, Hagedorn HJ. What Contributes to Sustainability? Examining Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder in Low-Adopting VHA Facilities. Journal of general internal medicine. 2023 Sep 1; 38(12):2647-2654.

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BACKGROUND: Successful implementation can increase the availability of evidence-based treatments but continued patient access can be threatened if there is not deliberate focus on sustainment. Real-world examples are needed to elucidate contributors to sustainability. OBJECTIVE: We examined sustainability of outcomes of a study which tested a 12-month external facilitation intervention. The study evaluated change in access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities in the lowest quartile of MOUD prescribing. DESIGN: Convergent mixed-methods design. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-nine providers and leaders from eight VHA facilities. APPROACH: Thirty-minute post-implementation telephone interviews explored whether barriers identified pre-implementation were successfully addressed, the presence of any new challenges, helpfulness of external facilitation, and plans for sustaining MOUD access. Interviews were analyzed using a rapid turn-around approach. VHA administrative data were used to characterize the facilities and assess their ratio of patients with an OUD diagnosis receiving MOUD (MOUD/OUD ratio) at the end of a 9-month sustainability period. KEY RESULTS: Commonly reported contributors to sustained MOUD access included national attention on the opioid epidemic, accountability created by study participation, culture shift in MOUD acceptability, leadership support, and plans to build on initial progress. Frequently reported barriers included staffing issues and lack of MOUD-devoted time; the need to overhaul existing policies, practices, and/or processes; and fear and anxiety about MOUD prescribing. All facilities either maintained MOUD/OUD ratio improvement (n = 2) or further improved (n = 6) at the end of sustainability. Facilities with the highest and lowest ratio at the end of sustainability used a team-based approach to MOUD delivery; however, organizational setting differences may have impacted overall MOUD access. CONCLUSIONS: Ensuring stable and consistent staff, and sufficient time dedicated to MOUD are critical to sustaining access to evidence-based treatment in low-adopting facilities. This study highlights the importance of investing in local, system-level changes to improve and sustain access to effective treatments.

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