Opioid Agonist Therapy During Hospitalization Within the Veterans Health Administration: a Pragmatic Retrospective Cohort Analysis

Kelsey C. Priest, Travis I. Lovejoy, Honora Englander, Sarah Shull, Dennis McCarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Hospitalization of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) is increasing, yet little is known about opioid agonist therapy (OAT: methadone and buprenorphine) administration during admission. Objective: Describe and examine patient- and hospital-level characteristics associated with OAT receipt during hospitalization in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Participants: A total of 12,407 unique patients, ≥ 18 years old, with an OUD-related ICD-10 diagnosis within 12 months prior to or during index hospitalization in fiscal year 2017 from 109 VHA hospitals in the continental U.S. Main Measure: OAT received during hospitalization. Key Results: Few admissions received OAT (n = 1914; 15%) and when provided it was most often for withdrawal management (n = 834; 7%). Among patients not on OAT prior to admission who survived hospitalization (n = 10,969), 2.0% (n = 203) were newly initiated on OAT with linkage to care after hospital discharge. Hospitals varied in the frequency of OAT delivery (range, 0 to 43% of qualified admissions). Patients with pre-admission OAT (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 15.30; 95% CI [13.2, 17.7]), acute OUD diagnosis (AOR = 2.3; 95% CI [1.99, 2.66]), and male gender (AOR 1.52; 95% CI [1.16, 2.01]) had increased odds of OAT receipt. Patients who received non-OAT opioids (AOR 0.53; 95% CI [0.46, 0.61]) or surgical procedures (AOR 0.75; 95% CI [0.57, 0.99]) had decreased odds of OAT receipt. Large-sized (AOR = 2.0; 95% CI [1.39, 3.00]) and medium-sized (AOR = 1.9; 95% CI [1.33, 2.70]) hospitals were more likely to provide OAT. Conclusions: In a sample of VHA inpatient medical admissions, OAT delivery was infrequent, varied across the health system, and was associated with specific patient and hospital characteristics. Policy and educational interventions should promote hospital-based OAT delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2365-2374
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • buprenorphine
  • hospital medicine
  • methadone
  • opioid agonist therapy
  • opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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