Treating opioid addiction in primary care helps patients and cash-strapped medical practices


Buprenorphine-based treatment for opioid addiction is in short supply in many areas of the United States. And while many physicians want to offer it, clinics are unsure how to offer buprenorphine therapy in a financially sustainable way. A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted financial cost and revenue analysis for four different approaches to delivering buprenorphine-based treatment in primary care practices. The approaches differed based on who in the clinic delivered the majority of face-to-face care, the presence of nurse care managers, and whether care was delivered in traditional one-on-one or group settings.

Microsimulation modelling found that all four approaches to care produced positive net revenue after the first year, and net revenues were consistently highest for rural practices. Physician-led treatment and shared medical visits, both of which relied on nurse care managers, consistently produced the greatest net revenue gains. Additionally, net revenues were positive for all primary care practices that had at least nine patients in buprenorphine treatment per provider at any given time and no-show rates less than 34 percent. The findings suggest that in the current fee-for-service-dominated environment, offering office-based therapy for opioid addiction with buprenorphine can be a financially sustainable choice for cash-strapped primary care practices, despite hurdles.


Financing Buprenorphine Treatment in Primary Care: A Microsimulation Model

Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD, et al

Harvard Medical School, Center for Primary Care, Boston, Massachusetts

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