Effects of a multifaceted implementation intervention to increase utilization of pharmacological treatments for alcohol use disorders in the US Veterans Health Administration

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017 Nov:82:107-112. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2017.09.002. Epub 2017 Sep 6.


Over 16 million Americans meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD), but only 7.8% of them receive formal treatment each year. Safe and effective pharmacological treatments for AUD exist; however, they are rarely prescribed. Therefore, we developed and pilot tested a multifaceted implementation intervention to improve consideration and receipt of effective pharmacologic treatments for AUD, focusing on primary care settings where patients have the most frequent contact with healthcare systems. The intervention included training of local providers to serve as champions and a website for primary care providers that included educational materials, a case-finding dashboard, and contact information for local and national clinical experts. We also mailed patients educational material about treatment options. The intervention was implemented at three large facilities of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). An interrupted time series design, analyzed with segmented logistic regression, was used to evaluate the intervention's effects. The odds of a patient with AUD receiving one of the AUD medications was increasing throughout the pre-implementation period, and the rate of change (slope) increased significantly in the implementation period. Translating these numbers into percentages, at baseline 2.9% of patients filled a prescription for an AUD medication within 30days of a primary care visit. This increased to 3.8% by the end of the pre-implementation period (increasing 0.037% per month), and increased to 5.2% by the end of the implementation period (increasing 0.142% per month). However, the intervention effect was not significant when control sites were added, suggesting that improvement may have been driven by secular trends rather than solely by this intervention. Although the intervention was feasible, it was not effective. Continued analysis of process and implementation data including qualitative interviews with key stakeholders, may elucidate the reasons this intervention was not successful and ways to strengthen its effects.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; Health care delivery; Implementation; Pharmacotherapy; Quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / drug therapy*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Plan Implementation / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Quality Improvement
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs*
  • Veterans*