How can people with opioid use disorder get better virtual care?

Virtual care is the new normal around the globe. The emergence of COVID-19 introduced a dual public health emergency in British Columbia. The province was already in the fourth year of its opioid-related overdose crisis. The public health response to COVID-19 must explicitly consider different communities experiencing marginalization including persons with opioid use disorder.

The move to virtual forms of primary care may result in changes to healthcare access or delivery of opioid agonist therapies. It can also impact co-occurring health problems that are prevalent in this population.

This mixed methods study characterizes changes to primary care access. It also looks at outcomes following the rapid introduction of virtual care for people with opioid use disorder. It has three parts:

(1) qualitative interviews with family physicians and people with lived/living experience of opioid use disorder document experiences with delivering and accessing virtual visits;

(2) quantitative analysis of health administrative data describes the uptake of virtual care, its impact on access to services, and downstream outcomes for people with opioid use disorder;

(3) deliberative dialogues help make new educational resources for family physicians, people with opioid use disorder, and policymakers. These resources promote fair access to high-quality virtual primary care for this population.

Why is virtual care important?

No population-based studies have assessed the use of virtual primary care among people with opioid use disorder. There is limited work documenting the experiences and perspectives of people with opioid use disorder on virtual care. We need to understand the impact of virtualization on medical care for people with opioid use disorder, such as treatment for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C Infection, and mental health challenges.

Study: Hedden L, McCracken R, Spencer S, Narayan S, Gooderham E, Bach P, Boyd J, Chakanyuka C, Hayashi K, Klimas J, Law M, McGrail K, Nosyk B, Peterson S, Sutherland C, Ti L, Yung S, Cameron F, Fernandez R, Giesler A, Strydom N. (2022) Advancing virtual primary care for people with opioid use disorder (VPC OUD): A mixed-methods study protocol. British Medical Journal Open;12:e067608.

First published on LinkedIn

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