Opioid misuse, alcoholism, and other forms of substance use disorder (SUD) continue to impact communities across the country. Telehealth and remote monitoring have become credible options for addiction treatment, especially for individuals in underserved locations.
Current Addiction Treatment Needs
Addiction treatment is facing many challenges across the United States, including:
Healthcare worker shortages throughout the nation
Tight regulatory controls that may limit treatment options
High rates of SUD in rural locations, worsened by factors like poverty and isolation
Hesitancy among existing providers to receive training to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
Lack of convenient behavioral health resources, such as residential treatment centers and methadone clinics
Remote addiction treatment, provided through telehealth and other online options, could help close some of these treatment gaps.
What Science Says About Remote Addiction Treatment
Several studies have validated the use of remote, digital options for addiction treatment.
Research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry noted that online and mobile applications provide more information and services to patience, which can enhance treatment by giving clinicians access to real-time patient data.
Some research suggests that remote monitoring, such as measuring blood alcohol content, may help encourage abstinence among people struggling with alcohol addiction.
Telehealth is also more likely to succeed when patients are more engaged. One example is the intervention LINKAGE, which uses electronic health records and patient portals to engage patients with SUD and other complex health needs. LINKAGE teaches participants how to use the patient portal and encourages collaborative communication skills.
Researchers studied its effectiveness at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California San Francisco outpatient addiction treatment clinic. Participants assigned to LINKAGE had higher abstinence rates and were more likely to talk to their physician about alcohol and drug problems outside of the treatment program.
Other studies of telehealth in addiction treatment and recovery have found that results for telephone-based addiction services may be superior to traditional continuing care. Patients who use videoconferencing addiction services report equivalent results and satisfaction compared with in-person care. Web-based telehealth services have been found to be comparable and even more effective than traditional addiction treatment.
Future of Remote Addiction Treatment
Providers and regulators continue to debate the validity of telehealth and how to incorporate it into the opioid crisis and other addiction issues. This year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is considering the possibility of allowing addiction treatment medication to be prescribed through videoconferencing. If approved, this could give patients another option for addiction treatment and expand access to highly effective MAT.
While telehealth, telepsychiatry, and other forms of remote addiction treatment could improve treatment access, there are still challenges to be addressed. Providers and other users note that telehealth still requires billing and other time-consuming, administrative tasks. There may also be barriers to implementation of telehealth that could limit its use.
Ideally, telehealth should not be used exclusively, but works best as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program tailored to the individual’s specific needs.
Support Your Telemedicine Practice With Specialized EHR
BestNotes EHR was developed specifically to serve behavioral health and addiction treatment practices. Whether you’ve already invested in a telehealth program, you are just starting the process, or simply considering adding it to your practice, BestNotes can help you stay streamlined and cost-effective.
Contact us today to learn more about how BestNotes EHR can help you improve care, track patient outcomes, and increase practice revenue.