We sought to determine the financial impact to primary care practices of alternative strategies for offering buprenorphine-based treatment for opioid use disorder.
We interviewed 20 practice managers and identified 4 approaches to delivering buprenorphine-based treatment via primary care practice that differed in physician and nurse responsibilities. We used a microsimulation model to estimate how practice variations in patient type, payer, revenue, and cost across primary care practices nationwide would affect cost and revenue implications for each approach for the following types of practices: federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), non-FQHCs in urban high-poverty areas, non-FQHCs in rural high-poverty areas, and practices outside of high-poverty areas.
The 4 approaches to buprenorphine-based treatment included physician-led visits with nurse-led logistical support; nurse-led visits with physician oversight; shared visits; and solo prescribing by physician alone. Net practice revenues would be expected to increase after introduction of any of the 4 approaches by $18,000 to $70,000 per full-time physician in the first year across practice type. Yet physician-led visits and shared medical appointments, both of which relied on nurse care managers, consistently produced the greatest net revenues ($29,000-$70,000 per physician in the first year). To ensure positive net revenues with any approach, providers would need to maintain at least 9 patients in treatment, with a no-show rate of <34%.
Using a simulation model, we estimate that many types of primary care practices could financially sustain buprenorphine-based treatment if demand and no-show rate requirements are met, but a nurse care manager-based approach might be the most sustainable.

© 2020 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.