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Physicians’ Decision-making When Implementing Buprenorphine With New Patients: Conjoint Analyses of Data From a Cohort of Current Prescribers

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Few studies have considered how providers make decisions to prescribe buprenorphine to new patients with opioid use disorder. This study examined the relative importance of patients’ clinical, financial, and social characteristics on physicians’ decision-making related to willingness to prescribe buprenorphine to new patients and the number of weeks of medication that they are willing to initially prescribe after induction.Methods:

A national sample of 1174 current prescribers was surveyed. Respondents rated willingness to prescribe on a 0 to 10 scale and indicated the number of weeks of medication (ranging from none to >4 weeks) for 20 hypothetical patients. Conjoint analysis estimated relative importance scores and part-worth utilities for these 2 outcome ratings.

The mean rating for willingness to prescribe was 5.52 (SD 2.47), indicating a moderate willingness to implement buprenorphine treatment. The mean prescription length was 2.06 (SD 1.34), which corresponds to 1 week of medication. For both ratings, the largest importance scores were for other risky substance use, method of payment, and spousal involvement in treatment. Illicit benzodiazepine use, having Medicaid insurance to pay for the office visit, and having an opioid-using spouse were negatively associated with these outcome ratings, whereas a history of no risky alcohol or benzodiazepine use, cash payment, and having an abstinent spouse were positively associated with both ratings.

Reticence to prescribe to individuals using an illicit benzodiazepine and individuals with a drug-using spouse aligns with practice guidelines. However, reluctance to prescribe to patients with Medicaid may hamper efforts to expand access to treatment.
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Keywords: buprenorphine; conjoint analysis; opioid use disorder; physician decision-making; vignettes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Behavioral Science and Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (HKK, MRL, SLW, JRH); and Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (JLS).

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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