Healthcare use after buprenorphine prescription in a community emergency department: A cohort study

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Introduction: Recent studies from urban academic centers have shown the promise of emergency physician-initiated buprenorphine for improving outcomes in opioid use disorder (OUD) patients. We investigated whether emergency physician-initiated buprenorphine in a rural, community setting decreases subsequent healthcare utilization for OUD patients. Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of patients presenting to a community hospital emergency department (ED) who received a prescription for buprenorphine from June 15, 2018–June 15, 2019. Demographic and opioid-related International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, (ICD-10) codes were documented and used to create a case-matched control cohort of demographically matched patients who presented in a similar time frame with similar ICD-10 codes but did not receive buprenorphine. We recorded 12-month rates of ED visits, all-cause hospitalizations, and opioid overdoses. Differences in event occurrences between groups were assessed with Poisson regression. Results: Overall 117 patients were included in the study: 59 who received buprenorphine vs 58 controls. The groups were well matched, both roughly 90% White and 60% male, with an average age of 33.4 years for both groups. Controls had a median two ED visits (range 0-33), median 0.5 hospitalizations (range 0-8), and 0 overdoses (range 0-3), vs median one ED visit (range 0-8), median 0 hospitalizations (range 0-4), and median 0 overdoses (range 0-3) in the treatment group. The incidence rate ratio (IRR) for counts of ED visits was 0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.49, 0.75, favoring medication-assisted treatment (MAT). For hospitalizations, IRR was 0.34, 95% CI, 0.22, 0.52 favoring MAT, and for overdoses was 1.04, 95% CI, 0.53, 2.07. Conclusion: Initiation of buprenorphine by ED providers was associated with lower 12-month ED visit and all-cause hospitalization rates with comparable overdose rates compared to controls. These findings show the ED’s potential as an initiation point for medication-assisted treatment in OUD patients.