Physicians’ attitudes towards office-based delivery of methadone maintenance therapy: results from a cross-sectional survey of Nova Scotia primary-care physicians
1 Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H 1V7, Canada
2 North End Community Health Centre, Halifax, NS B3K 3B5, Canada
3 Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, 5790 University Ave, Halifax, NS B3H 1V7, Canada
Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:20 doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-20Published: 13 June 2012
Approximately 90,000 Canadians use opioids each year, many of whom experience health and social problems that affect the individual user, families, communities and the health care system. For those who wish to reduce or stop their opioid use, methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) is effective and supporting evidence is well-documented. However, access and availability to MMT is often inconsistent, with greater inequity outside of urban settings. Involving community based primary-care physicians in the delivery of MMT could serve to expand capacity and accessibility of MMT programs. Little is known, however, about the extent to which MMT, particularly office-based delivery, is acceptable to physicians. The aim of this study is to survey physicians about their attitudes towards MMT, particularly office-based delivery, and the perceived barriers and facilitators to MMT delivery.
In May 2008, facilitated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, a cross-sectional, e-mail survey of 950 primary-care physicians practicing in Nova Scotia, Canada was administered via the OPINIO on-line survey software, to assess the acceptability of office-based MMT. Logistic regressions, adjusted for physician sociodemographic characteristics, were used to examine the association between physicians’ willingness to participate in office-based MMT, and a series of measures capturing physician attitudes and knowledge about treatment approaches, opioid use, and methadone, as well as perceived barriers to MMT.
Overall, 19.8% of primary-care physicians responded to the survey, with 56% who indicated that they would be willing to be involved in MMT under current or similar circumstances; however, willingness was associated with numerous attitudinal and systemic factors. The barriers to involvement in MMT that were frequently cited included a lack of training or experience in MMT, lack of support services, and potential challenges of working with an MMT patient population.
Study findings provide valuable information to help facilitate greater involvement of primary-care physicians in MMT, while highlighting concerns around administration, support, and training. Even limited uptake by primary-care physicians would greatly enhance MMT access in Nova Scotia, particularly for methadone clients located in rural communities. These findings are applicable broadly, to any jurisdictions where office-based MMT is not currently available.