Why Telehealth For Addiction Treatment is the New Normal

By Efosa Airuehia | 0 Comments | Addiction Treatment,

Why Telehealth For Addiction Treatment is the New Normal

Utilizing telehealth for addiction treatment is not a new trend. It is, however, not as widespread as it should be, considering the ongoing addiction crisis.

The opioid epidemic remains a public health issue in the United States. It does not appear that there are enough services to curb this crisis. In many areas of the country, there are shortages of mental health and addiction professionals. Thus, many people who need help have no access to services.

How can we address this acute shortage of addiction and mental health services?

While there is no one solution to this problem, there are quite a few options. One potential piece to this puzzle is to increase the utilization of telehealth for addiction treatment.

This remote delivery of healthcare services increases access to medical care. It also removes the barriers of having to travel to see a healthcare professional.

Over the last several years, there has been refinement in telehealth technology. It is relatively easy to use, regardless of computer literacy. In most cases, a connection with a health provider is via simply clicking on a link. This ease of use helps with the acceptability of telehealth.

 

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the process of receiving medical care over the internet. It involves speaking with a healthcare professional through a live video call. Thus, computers, tablets, and cell phones directly connect you to an addiction or mental health service. As such, you can be seen from the comfort of your home, work, school, or even vacation destination.

Telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably. So, is there a difference between these two terms?

The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to telemedicine as “healing from a distance.” It is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide remote clinical services to patients.

Health care professionals use telemedicine for video consultations and the transmission of test results. The use of secure video and audio connections means health professionals can treat patients who live in areas with limited access to care.

HealthIT.gov defines telehealth as “the utilization of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health education, public health and health administration.

Thus, there is one distinct difference between telemedicine and telehealth. Unlike telemedicine, telehealth also covers non-clinical events. Such events include administrative meetings, continuing medical education (CME), and physician training.

In order words, telehealth is a collection of methods to improve patient care and education delivery. As such, one can think of telehealth as all-encompassing. Telemedicine falls under the umbrella of telehealth.

 

Utilizing Telehealth for Addiction Treatment

There are several components to addiction treatment. Depending on the severity of your addiction, treatment may be done inpatient or outpatient. Detoxification is usually the first step. Because of the risk and potential complications, telehealth is not recommended for detox.

Following detox, treatment may be inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient residential treatment usually lasts 30-90 days on average. During such treatment, telehealth has its benefits. Some treatment programs utilize addiction and mental health providers who dial in using telemedicine. Because of the shortage of such professionals, this platform can be handy.

Residential treatment is not the only option for treatment. In some cases, outpatient treatment is more beneficial. Outpatient programs include Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), and Supportive Outpatient Program (SOP). Telehealth for addiction treatment has many benefits in outpatient programs.

Many treatment programs offer counseling sessions. These are done either in a group or individual meeting. Interestingly, telehealth is beneficial in both. Virtual visits are slowly becoming more mainstream. Such use, thus, highlights one of the beauties of telemedicine for addiction treatment.

Additionally, aftercare visits with mental health or addiction professionals are readily available via telehealth. Several professionals are offering virtual visits using this platform. Medication-Assisted Treatment can be provided through telehealth in some cases. Considering the shortage of such services, this is huge.

 

Advantages of Using Telehealth for Addiction Treatment

It is essential to regard telehealth as one of the tools to complement addiction treatment. It is not necessarily a new way of providing services. Telemedicine has been present for a very long time. Unfortunately, its use is not as widespread as it should be.There are many advantages to using telehealth for addiction treatment. Accessibility and convenience are the big ones. This platform makes treatment accessible to people in areas with few treatment professionals. It also provides a convenient treatment option for people with limited mobility or time.

In addiction treatment, a good relationship with a professional makes a huge difference. Telehealth certainly helps with this. Also, frequent check-ins can be life-saving.

Additionally, telehealth helps patients feel in control. It emphasizes the feeling that their health is in their hands. Accessibility via smartphones makes this even more apparent. Talking to patients in their own environments helps them take charge of their treatment.

Yet another advantage of telehealth is the speed of access. Because patients don’t have to transport themselves to a location, they can access their professionals more quickly. This promptness helps to address problems before they get out of hand.

People who have substance use and mental health disorders are diagnosed as having co-occurring disorders. This condition is relatively common. In addition to treating addiction, mental health issues also have to be managed. Again, telehealth has a considerable role to play in the aftercare of such patients. There is also the advantage of different professionals collaborating via telemedicine to help a patient.

Unfortunately, stigma remains an issue in seeking help for addictions. Utilizing telehealth for addiction treatment reduces this obstacle. As such, it can help with increasing participation in recovery programs. The privacy, accessibility, and flexibility that comes with telehealth improve the chances of recovery.

 

Limitations of Telehealth for Addiction Treatment

Even though there are many benefits of using telehealth for addiction treatment, there are also drawbacks.

One of the downsides to telehealth for addiction treatment is the impersonal nature of the platform. The lack of in-person visits can create a barrier for some people. We certainly cannot downplay the benefits of personal interactions.

Telehealth laws vary from state to state. The variations are even more glaring amongst countries. As you would expect, these differences hinder the more widespread use of telehealth. More uniform laws, in the future, should help make this service even more accessible.

There is also the issue of insurance reimbursements. Again, there is quite a bit of difference from one insurance panel to the next. While some recognize and pay for telehealth, some don’t. Sadly, this limits the utilization of this service.

The internet has undoubtedly transformed modern life. Even though some of these changes are negative, there are also many positives. We can say the ability to utilize telehealth is one of the advantages of the internet.

For most telehealth platforms, decent internet speed is necessary. The availability of such service is a problem in certain areas, however. Unfortunately, this is more common in rural areas. As a reminder, many rural areas also lack addiction and mental health professionals. Consequently, such regions continue to suffer from a lack of in-person and telehealth visits.

Let us not forget the cost of computers and mobile devices. These are necessary to hold a telehealth visit. Therefore, people who are unable to obtain them will be unable to plug into this platform.

When personal information is sent over the internet, data privacy becomes a concern. HIPPA compliant telehealth platforms help to protect personal information on the internet.

 

Conclusion

Telehealth is the process of receiving medical care over the internet. It involves speaking with a healthcare professional through a live video call. Thus, computers, tablets, and cell phones directly connect you to an addiction or mental health service.

Telemedicine and telehealth are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there is one distinct difference between telemedicine and telehealth. Unlike telemedicine, telehealth also covers non-clinical events. Such events include administrative meetings, continuing medical education (CME), and physician training.

In order words, telehealth is a collection of methods to improve patient care and education delivery. As such, one can think of telehealth as all-encompassing. Telemedicine falls under the umbrella of telehealth.

Utilizing telehealth for addiction treatment is not a new trend. There are benefits in both inpatient and outpatient treatment of substance use disorders. It is particularly helpful in aftercare following detoxification and initial treatment.

Telehealth has a place in individual and group counseling, Medication-Assisted Treatment, and overall accountability. As such, the benefits of this platform are immense.

Accessibility and convenience are the significant advantages of telehealth for addiction treatment. Also, it makes patients feel in control. It emphasizes the feeling that their health is in their hands. Telehealth also helps with reducing the stigma that comes with addiction treatment.

Even though this platform has many advantages, there are drawbacks too. One of the downsides to telehealth for addiction treatment is the lack of in-person visits. This set up can be impersonal for some people. There are also issues with state laws and insurance reimbursements. Data privacy of personal health information is also a concern, though problems with these rarely arise.

Overall, telemedicine has lots of advantages in addiction treatment. Its use continues to grow, and telehealth for addiction treatment will likely become more widespread.

 

 

 

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The entire content of AddictionBlueprint, including content on drugs and alcohol, medications, therapies, facilities, spotlights, recommendations, and other features is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This does not constitute a physician-patient relationship. Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers regarding your addiction, mental and medical issues.

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