Physicians’ Perspectives Regarding Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Use Within the Department of Veterans Affairs: a Multi-State Qualitative Study

Thomas R. Radomski, Felicia R. Bixler, Susan L. Zickmund, Katie Lynn M. Roman, Carolyn T. Thorpe, Jennifer A. Hale, Florentina E. Sileanu, Leslie R.M. Hausmann, Joshua M. Thorpe, Katie J. Suda, Kevin T. Stroupe, Adam J. Gordon, Chester B. Good, Michael J. Fine, Walid F. Gellad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has implemented robust strategies to monitor prescription opioid dispensing, but these strategies have not accounted for opioids prescribed by non-VA providers. State-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are a potential tool to identify VA patients’ receipt of opioids from non-VA prescribers, and recent legislation requires their use within VA. Objective: To evaluate VA physicians’ perspectives and experiences regarding use of PDMPs to monitor Veterans’ receipt of opioids from non-VA prescribers. Design: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. Participants: Forty-two VA primary care physicians who prescribed opioids to 15 or more Veterans in 2015. We sampled physicians from two states with PDMPs (Massachusetts and Illinois) and one without prescriber access to a PDMP at the time of the interviews (Pennsylvania). Approach: From February to August 2016, we conducted semi-structured telephone interviews that addressed the following topics regarding PDMPs: overall experiences, barriers to optimal use, and facilitators to improve use. Key Results: VA physicians broadly supported use of PDMPs or desired access to one, while exhibiting varying patterns of PDMP use dictated by state laws and their clinical judgment. Physicians noted administrative burdens and incomplete or unavailable prescribing data as key barriers to PDMP use. To facilitate use, physicians endorsed (1) linking PDMPs with the VA electronic health record, (2) using templated notes to document PDMP use, and (3) delegating routine PDMP queries to ancillary staff. Conclusions: Despite the time and administrative burdens associated with their use, VA physicians in our study broadly supported PDMPs. The application of our findings to ongoing PDMP implementation efforts may strengthen PDMP use both within and outside VA and improve the safe prescribing of opioids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1259
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • opioids
  • prescription drug monitoring programs
  • qualitative research
  • Veterans


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