Telehealth is Critical for Combating the Opioid Epidemic
Virtual Care Demonstrates Proven Value in Improving Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Treatment
Virtual Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment has seen an incredible number of positive results and continued promise in recent years. With an estimated 80,000 opioid overdoses last year – the leading cause of accidental death – it is critical that we recognize and protect the benefits virtual care provides OUD patients and treatment.
For example, telehealth programs help OUD patients stay in treatment longer and improve outcomes. One study from the National Institutes of Health found that those who received medication-assisted opioid treatment through telehealth were more likely to receive their medications than those attending traditional, in-person appointments, and as a result, face a 33 percent lower risk of fatal drug overdose. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs VA News, telehealth access to OUD treatment also helps promote consistency, longevity, and comfort, allowing patients to get into treatment and stay in treatment.
“The expansion of telehealth services for people with substance use disorders during the pandemic has helped to address barriers to accessing medical care for addiction throughout the country that have long existed,” said Wilson Compton, M.D., M.P.E, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Telehealth is a valuable service and when coupled with medications for opioid use disorder can be lifesaving.”
Further, Pew Charitable Trusts wrote that “limits on telehealth to treat opioid use disorder would be ‘a step back in time,’” due to the overwhelming positive benefits for patients and has underscored that “remote treatment access to buprenorphine was a game-changer for people seeking care.”
Another collaborative study conducted by five medical schools and hospitals in the Boston area studied over 11,000 patients and found telehealth programs to be comparable to traditional care for OUD treatment, serving as a much-needed option for those who are unable to regularly attend in-person appointments.
Further, virtual OUD treatment also helps reduce the overwhelming social stigma around addiction by creating a more welcoming and comfortable environment for patients to get the treatment they need. “One of the biggest benefits that virtual care offers people with OUD is alleviating the stigma associated with seeking treatment for OUD,” says Dr. Robin Arthur Williams “By receiving care in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, patients don’t need to worry about judgment or disclosure of their condition in a public setting.”
By protecting virtual access to OUD treatment and care, Congress can enable greater health equity and invest in a stronger and healthier tomorrow.
ABOUT TELEHEALTH ACCESS FOR AMERICA
Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services.
Learn more at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.