Implementing alcohol use disorder pharmacotherapy in primary care settings: a qualitative analysis of provider-identified barriers and impact on implementation outcomes

Hildi J. Hagedorn, Jennifer P. Wisdom, Heather Gerould, Erika Pinsker, Randall Brown, Michael Dawes, Eric Dieperink, Donald Hugh Myrick, Elizabeth M. Oliva, Todd H. Wagner, Alex H.S. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the high prevalence of alcohol use disorders (AUDs), in 2016, only 7.8% of individuals meeting diagnostic criteria received any type of AUD treatment. Developing options for treatment within primary care settings is imperative to increase treatment access. As part of a trial to implement AUD pharmacotherapy in primary care settings, this qualitative study analyzed pre-implementation provider interviews using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) to identify implementation barriers. Methods: Three large Veterans Health Administration facilities participated in the implementation intervention. Local providers were trained to serve as implementation/clinical champions and received external facilitation from the project team. Primary care providers received a dashboard of patients with AUD for case identification, educational materials, and access to consultation from clinical champions. Veterans with AUD diagnoses received educational information in the mail. Prior to the start of implementation activities, 24 primary care providers (5–10 per site) participated in semi-structured interviews. Transcripts were analyzed using common coding techniques for qualitative data using the CFIR codebook Innovation/Intervention Characteristics, Outer Setting, Inner Setting, and Characteristics of Individuals domains. Number and type of barriers identified were compared to quantitative changes in AUD pharmacotherapy prescribing rates. Results: Four major barriers emerged across all three sites: complexity of providing AUD pharmacotherapy in primary care, the limited compatibility of AUD treatment with existing primary care processes, providers’ limited knowledge and negative beliefs about AUD pharmacotherapy and providers’ negative attitudes toward patients with AUD. Site specific barriers included lack of relative advantage of providing AUD pharmacotherapy in primary care over current practice, complaints about the design quality and packaging of implementation intervention materials, limited priority of addressing AUD in primary care and limited available resources to implement AUD pharmacotherapy in primary care. Conclusions: CFIR constructs were useful for identifying pre-implementation barriers that informed refinements to the implementation intervention. The number and type of pre-implementation barriers identified did not demonstrate a clear relationship to the degree to which sites were able to improve AUD pharmacotherapy prescribing rate. Site-level implementation process factors such as leadership support and provider turn-over likely also interacted with pre-implementation barriers to drive implementation outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number24
JournalAddiction Science and Clinical Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol use disorder pharmacotherapy
  • Implementation
  • Implementation barriers
  • Primary care mental health integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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