Cover: Differences in Buprenorphine Treatment Quality Across Physician Provider Specialties

Differences in Buprenorphine Treatment Quality Across Physician Provider Specialties

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 237 (August 2022). doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109510

Posted on Jul 14, 2023

by Jonathan S. Levin, Rachel Landis, Mark J. Sorbero, Andrew W. Dick, Brendan Saloner, Bradley D. Stein


The number and types of clinicians prescribing buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) have increased over the past two decades, but there is little information on how potential indicators of quality of care to patients receiving buprenorphine vary by provider specialty.


We used the Medicaid Analytic eXtract from 2009 to 2014 to identify buprenorphine treatment episodes. We assigned physician specialties to episodes based on whether an episode had at least one outpatient claim linked to specialists in addiction, behavioral health, opioid treatment program (OTP), pain, or primary care provider (PCP). We then used logistic regressions to estimate the association of linked physician specialty and achievement of the following process of care measures: at least 180-day duration, no co-occurring opioid analgesics, no co-occurring benzodiazepines, infectious disease screening, liver function test, drug and toxicology screenings, evaluation and management visits, and counseling.


Episodes linked to PCPs had significantly lower odds of achieving 180-day duration, an absence of opioid analgesics, an absence of benzodiazepines, drug and toxicology screenings, and counseling compared to addiction, behavioral health, and/or OTPs. Episodes linked to PCPs had significantly higher odds of undergoing infectious disease screenings, liver function tests, and evaluation and management visits compared to all specialty categories.


Episodes were more likely to achieve process of care measures related to the specialties of their physicians, but no specialty consistently demonstrated better performance compared to PCPs. Our findings highlight the need for models that can better integrate physical and behavioral health services for OUD treatment.

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