A brief educational intervention to increase ED initiation of buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD)

BACKGROUND: Despite the evidence in support of the use of buprenorphine in the treatment of OUD and increasing ability of emergency medicine (EM) clinicians to prescribe it, emergency department (ED)-initiated buprenorphine is uncommon. Many EM clinicians lack training on how to manage acute opioid withdrawal or initiate treatment with buprenorphine. We developed a brief buprenorphine training program and assessed the impact of the training on subsequent buprenorphine initiation and knowledge retention.

METHODS: We conducted a pilot randomized control trial enrolling EM clinicians to receive either a 30-min didactic intervention about buprenorphine (standard arm) or the didactic plus weekly messaging and a monetary inducement to administer and report buprenorphine use (enhanced arm). All participants were incentivized to complete baseline, immediate post-didactic, and 90-day knowledge and attitude assessment surveys. Our objective was to achieve first time ED buprenorphine prescribing events in clinicians who had not previously prescribed buprenorphine in the ED and to improve EM-clinician knowledge and perceptions about ED-initiated buprenorphine. We also assessed whether the incentives and reminder messaging in the enhanced arm led to more clinicians administering buprenorphine than those in the standard arm following the training; we measured changes in knowledge of and attitudes toward ED-initiated buprenorphine.

RESULTS: Of 104 EM clinicians enrolled, 51 were randomized to the standard arm and 53 to the enhanced arm. Clinical knowledge about buprenorphine improved for all clinicians immediately after the didactic intervention (difference 19.4%, 95% CI 14.4% to 24.5%). In the 90 days following the intervention, one-third (33%) of all participants reported administering buprenorphine for the first time. Clinicians administered buprenorphine more frequently in the enhanced arm compared to the standard arm (40% vs. 26.3%, p = 0.319), but the difference was not statistically significant. The post-session knowledge improvement was not sustained at 90 days in the enhanced (difference 9.6%, 95% CI – 0.37% to 19.5%) or in the standard arm (difference 3.7%, 95% CI – 5.8% to 13.2%). All the participants reported an increased ability to recognize patients with opioid withdrawal at 90 days (enhanced arm difference .55, 95% CI .01-1.09, standard arm difference .85 95% CI .34-1.37).

CONCLUSIONS: A brief educational intervention targeting EM clinicians can be utilized to achieve first-time prescribing and improve knowledge around buprenorphine and opioid withdrawal. The use of weekly messaging and gain-framed incentivization conferred no additional benefit to the educational intervention alone. In order to further expand evidence-based ED treatment of OUD, focused initiatives that improve clinician competence with buprenorphine should be explored.

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Full citation:
Khatri UG, Lee K, Lin T, D'Orazio JL, Patel MS, Shofer FS, Perrone J (2022).
A brief educational intervention to increase ED initiation of buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD)
Journal of Medical Toxicology, 18 (3), 205-213. doi: 10.1007/s13181-022-00890-7. PMCID: PMC9004452.