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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Aug 24;204:107523. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.06.025. [Epub ahead of print]

Patient perspectives on a harm reduction-oriented addiction medicine consultation team implemented in a large acute care hospital.

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School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 3-300 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 87 Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T6C 1C9, Canada. Electronic address:
School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 3-300 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 87 Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T6C 1C9, Canada.
Department of Family Medicine, University of Calgary, G012 Health Sciences Centre, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada.
Inner City Health and Wellness Program, Royal Alexandra Hospital, B804 Women's Centre, Royal Alexandra Hospital, 10240 Kingsway Ave, Edmonton, Alberta T5H 3V9, Canada.
Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, 610 University Terrace, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2T4, Canada.



Addiction medicine consultation teams [AMCTs] are a promising strategy for improving hospital care for patients with substance use disorders. Yet very little research has examined AMCT implementation in acute care settings. To address this gap, we conducted a process evaluation of a novel harm reduction-oriented AMCT. Our specific aims included examining patients' perspectives on factors that facilitated or hindered AMCT delivery, and its impact on their hospital care and outcomes.


The AMCT provided integrated addiction medicine, harm reduction services, and wraparound health and social supports for patients of a large, urban acute care hospital in Western Canada. We adopted a focused ethnographic design and recruited 21 patients into semi-structured interviews eliciting their views on the care they received from the team.


Participants highlighted the AMCT's harm reduction approach; reputation amongst peers; and specialized training as especially important intervention facilitators. Key barriers that constrained the impact of the team included unmet expectations; difficulty accessing follow-up care; and residual conflicts between the AMCT's harm reduction approach and the abstinence-only orientation of some hospital staff. For a few participants these conflicts led to negative experiences. Despite this, participants reported that the AMCT had positive impacts overall, including declines in substance use, enhanced mental and emotional wellbeing, and improved socio-economic circumstances.


A novel harm reduction-oriented AMCT led to better hospital experiences and perceived outcomes for patients. However, further efforts are needed to ensure adequate post-discharge follow-up, and a consistent approach to substance use disorder care amongst all hospital staff.


Acute care; Addiction medicine; Harm reduction; Hospitals; Multidisciplinary care teams; Qualitative research

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