Telehealth opioid treatment

What is telehealth opioid treatment and how does it work?

Telehealth treatment, sometimes referred to as telemedicine, is the method in which doctors and health care professionals are able to provide treatment or counseling by means of virtual communication. Without the need for an in-person office visit, telehealth is becoming increasingly popular, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, because of its convenience and effectiveness for both health care professionals and patients alike. Scheduling and dealing with in-person treatment can be challenging for several reasons, while telehealth allows patients ease of access to their health care needs from the comfort of their own home.

As America continues with a growing opioid crisis, telehealth opioid addiction treatment has become especially valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic struck in the early months of 2020 and was declared a public health emergency, hundreds of thousands of Americans receiving treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) were at risk of losing their necessary medical care. Subsequently, federal policy was adjusted to allow patients to receive treatment remotely, opening the door for telehealth services.

Telehealth opioid treatment expands and eases access for many patients that struggled to receive proper health care both before and during the pandemic. Telehealth treatment helps to combat opioid addiction and the numerous barriers to health care that OUD patients may face, including those living in rural and/or underserved areas, as well as those in correctional facilities.


Who can prescribe telehealth opioid treatment?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the United States, regulatory barriers established by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) prevented health care providers from prescribing buprenorphine or other medication for OUD via telehealth; prescribing and dispensing controlled substances had to be done through an in-person medical evaluation. With consideration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, however, both the DEA and SAMHSA adjusted their guidelines to allow new medication initiations via telehealth. In most states, various health care providers, including physicians, mental health professionals, and nurse practitioners, are now allowed to provide the same services via telehealth that they provide in person. Still, health care providers must adhere to any state guidelines that may limit the extent of telehealth treatment.

What are the benefits of telehealth opioid treatment?

Besides the obvious reduced risk of spreading infectious diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth opioid treatment has proven to be beneficial for both patients and health care providers, and studies have shown telehealth treatment to be similarly effective to in-person treatment.

  • Expanded, easier access to opioid treatment: Patients living in rural areas or underserved areas now have quick access to health care.
  • Reduced costs: Virtual visits cut down on travel costs, and in some instances help clients avoid taking time off from work or handling childcare costs.
  • Conveniency: With recent approval to use virtual hosting sites such as Microsoft Office, Google Meet, and Zoom, as well as allowing audiovisual and audio-only telehealth services, more patients can now receive telehealth opioid treatment with fewer accessibility limitations.
  • Streamlining: As health care centers continue to improve their technological infrastructure and workforce training for telehealth treatment, virtual health care can often shorten the wait time for an appointment. Additionally, patients might now be able to connect with mental health professionals and specialists that were not previously accessible.

Many doctors are currently offering telehealth treatment, so it is recommended that you speak with your doctor or mental health care professional to see if they are offering options that work for you. Consult with your doctor if telehealth treatment for OUD or your specific condition, because the best treatment options can vary by individual. PCI Centers will provide a free consultation so that you can see for yourself if treatment is the right path for you .