Medications for opioid use disorder in rural primary care practices: Patient and provider experiences

J Subst Use Addict Treat. 2023 Nov:154:209133. doi: 10.1016/j.josat.2023.209133. Epub 2023 Aug 4.


Introduction: The opioid epidemic has exacted a significant toll in rural areas, yet adoption of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) lags. The Rural Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Pennsylvania (RAMP) Project facilitated adoption of MOUD in rural primary care clinics. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the barriers and facilitators operating at multiple levels to access or provide MOUD in rural Pennsylvania.

Methods: In total, the study conducted 35 semi-structured interviews with MOUD patients and MOUD providers participating in RAMP. Qualitative analysis incorporated both deductive and inductive approaches. The study team coded interviews and performed thematic analysis. Using a modified social-ecological framework, themes from the qualitative interviews are organized in five nested levels: individual, interpersonal, health care setting, community, and public policy.

Results: Patients and providers agreed on many barriers (e.g., lack of providers, lack of transportation, insufficient rapport and trust in patient-provider relationship, and cost, etc.); however, their interpretation of the barrier, or indicated solution, diverged in meaningful ways. Patients described their experiences in broad terms pointing to the social determinants of health, as they highlighted their lives outside of the therapeutic encounter in the clinic. Providers focused on their professional roles, responsibilities, and operations within the primary care setting.

Conclusions: Providers may want to discuss barriers to treatment related to social determinants of health with patients, and pursue partnerships with organizations that seek to address those barriers. The findings from these interviews point to potential opportunities to enhance patient experience, increase access to and optimize processes for MOUD in rural areas, and reduce stigma against people with opioid use disorder (OUD) in the wider community.

Keywords: Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD); Primary care; Qualitative research; Rural; Stigma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Epidemics*
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / therapy
  • Primary Health Care


  • Analgesics, Opioid