Only 21 percent of emergency department clinicians have a readiness to offer buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, according to a study of nearly 400 clinicians at four urban academic emergency departments.
Buprenorphine is used to prevent overdose and to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
Barriers to its use include perceptions that initiating buprenorphine therapy falls outside the scope and practice of emergency medicine, absence of local protocols and referral networks, limited knowledge of local treatment resources, lack of formal training, and limitations on time.
“This study provides a baseline evaluation of what care emergency departments are providing to patients with opioid use disorder,” said lead author Dr. Kathryn Hawk, assistant professor in emergency medicine and attending physician in the Yale New Haven Hospital Emergency Department. “The willingness of emergency department providers to take on a new treatment is changing drastically.”
The study is part one of a Project ED Health, research designed to support strategies for increasing buprenorphine prescriptions in emergency departments. It is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network and is led by two Yale physician-researchers.
The emergency departments studied were at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle; Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore; Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan; and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.