Background: Despite the availability and demonstrated effectiveness of office-based buprenorphine maintenance treatment (BMT), the systematic examination of physicians' attitudes towards this new medical practice has been largely neglected.
Objective: To identify facilitators and barriers to the potential or actual implementation of BMT by office-based medical providers.
Design: Qualitative study using individual and group semi-structured interviews.
Participants: Twenty-three practicing office-based physicians in New England.
Approach: Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and entered into a qualitative software program. The transcripts were thematically coded using the constant comparative method by a multidisciplinary team.
Results: Eighty percent of the physicians were white; 55% were women. The mean number of years since graduating medical school was 14 (SD = 10). The primary areas of clinical specialization were internal medicine (50%), infectious disease (20%), and addiction medicine (15%). Physicians identified physician, patient, and logistical factors that would either facilitate or serve as a barrier to their integration of BMT into clinical practice. Physician facilitators included promoting continuity of patient care, positive perceptions of BMT, and viewing BMT as a positive alternative to methadone maintenance. Physician barriers included competing activities, lack of interest, and lack of expertise in addiction treatment. Physicians' perceptions of patient-related barriers included concerns about confidentiality and cost, and low motivation for treatment. Perceived logistical barriers included lack of remuneration for BMT, limited ancillary support for physicians, not enough time, and a perceived low prevalence of opioid dependence in physicians' practices.
Conclusions: Addressing physicians' perceptions of facilitators and barriers to BMT is crucial to supporting the further expansion of BMT into primary care and office-based practices.