VPSA project funding helps improve Emergency Department Suboxone program

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A multidisciplinary team at VGH’s Emergency Department has been screening patients for opioid use disorder since 2019. Eligible patients receive take-home Suboxone packages. (Suboxone is a first-line opioid agonist therapy in BC; there is evidence for its effectiveness when provided in emergency department settings.)

“We wanted to gather feedback from the many care providers involved in the program as well as from patients to understand which aspects of our program had been successful,” said Dr. Jessica Moe, a VGH emergency physician and assistant professor. “We applied for funding from VPSA’s Small Steps, Big Idea to find out how we could optimize our processes and make improvements.”

Emergency department and addictions physicians, nurses, social workers, and pharmacists attended focus groups. The project team followed up with patients who had been provided with the take-home Suboxone packages and engaged them in in-depth interviews to understand their experiences.

“The focus groups and interviews provided valuable feedback on how we could improve our program,” said Dr. Moe. “All providers wanted more longitudinal education on Suboxone provision, including multidisciplinary opportunities to share learning and experiences. We organized educational “coffee carts” and made rounds of the emergency department with information about the program. We also organized presentations of complex clinical cases and Q&As with all the healthcare provider groups. These were all well received.”

Patient feedback was also positive.

“They encouraged us to continue offering Suboxone in the emergency department as well as to improve patient psychosocial supports,” added Dr. Moe. “We’re now working to improve pathways to engage social work during patients’ ED visits. We’re also improving our partnerships with the Overdose Outreach Team to provide follow-up care for patients.”

Dr. Moe says the team plans to expand the program to allow for alternative induction regimes to best meet the needs of diverse patients at risk for overdose. They also aim to expand healthcare provider education.

Do you have an idea that could use funding? Check out VPSA’s Small Steps, Big Idea initiative. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

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