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Clinician Perspectives on Delivering Medication Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Evaluation.

Lott AM, Danner AN, Malte CA, Williams EC, Gordon AJ, Halvorson MA, Saxon AJ, Hagedorn HJ, Sayre GG, Hawkins EJ. Clinician Perspectives on Delivering Medication Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Evaluation. Journal of addiction medicine. 2023 Jul 1; 17(4):e262-e268.

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OBJECTIVE: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic necessitated changes in opioid use disorder care. Little is known about COVID-19's impact on general healthcare clinicians' experiences providing medication treatment for opioid use disorder (MOUD). This qualitative evaluation assessed clinicians' beliefs about and experiences delivering MOUD in general healthcare clinics during COVID-19. METHODS: Individual semistructured interviews were conducted May through December 2020 with clinicians participating in a Department of Veterans Affairs initiative to implement MOUD in general healthcare clinics. Participants included 30 clinicians from 21 clinics (9 primary care, 10 pain, and 2 mental health). Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: The following 4 themes were identified: overall impact of the pandemic on MOUD care and patient well-being, features of MOUD care impacted, MOUD care delivery, and continuance of telehealth for MOUD care. Clinicians reported a rapid shift to telehealth care, resulting in few changes to patient assessments, MOUD initiations, and access to and quality of care. Although technological challenges were noted, clinicians highlighted positive experiences, including treatment destigmatization, more timely visits, and insight into patients' environments. Such changes resulted in more relaxed clinical interactions and improved clinic efficiency. Clinicians reported a preference for in-person and telehealth hybrid care models. CONCLUSIONS: After the quick shift to telehealth-based MOUD delivery, general healthcare clinicians reported few impacts on quality of care and highlighted several benefits that may address common barriers to MOUD care. Evaluations of in-person and telehealth hybrid care models, clinical outcomes, equity, and patient perspectives are needed to inform MOUD services moving forward.

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