Background: Shared medical appointments (SMAs) for buprenorphine prescribing are clinical encounters in which multiple patients with opioid problems receive treatment from providers in a group setting. Telehealth, the provision of clinical services remotely using telecommunications technology, is an essential modality for improving access to healthcare when combined with SMAs, especially since the COVID pandemic. Objectives: The current study specifically examined psychological components of telehealth SMAs for buprenorphine prescribing to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of this treatment model. Methods: Data was collected through qualitative interviews with patients (N=10) in a psychiatry addiction medicine clinic. Narrative synthesis using grounded theory was conducted to identify salient themes from the interviews. Results: Findings highlighted the advantages and downsides of telehealth SMA to treat addictive disorders in a digital age: (1) Shared group identity; (2) Decreased stigma around buprenorphine; (3) Benefits of telehealth; (4) Discomfort with group SMA format; (5) Strategies for managing medication side effects; and (6) Enhanced empathy for providers. Several themes corresponded to therapeutic factors identified in group therapy (i.e., installation of hope, universality, imparting information, altruism) and mechanisms theorized in previous SMA research (e.g., combating isolation, disease self-management, feeling inspired by others). Conclusion: Telehealth SMAs for buprenorphine prescribing may be a unique opportunity for patients to receive both ongoing medication management and psychosocial benefits that promote recovery and reduce stigma. The SMA group had shortcomings for some patients, including privacy concerns, fear of judgment from other patients and limited time to discuss individual concerns with providers.
View details for DOI 10.1080/10550887.2022.2123669
View details for PubMedID 36374272