Improving Opioid Addiction Treatment with Telemedicine
Telehealth Can Increase Access to Treatment for Those Suffering From Opioid Use Disorder
The opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc on much of the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 128 people die every day from overdosing on opioids. Opioids are often prescribed to those suffering from chronic pain, but many drugs come with addictive properties that can lead to abuse and even overdose.
The epidemic has led to new restrictions for providers who want to prescribe this medication. They need to comply with certain health and safety regulations when prescribing medication to make sure their patients are not abusing these drugs. However, many patients, including those living in rural areas, often lack access to providers that have the ability to prescribe these drugs safely.
That’s why many providers are using telehealth to expand their addiction treatment services. Virtual care technology helps providers safely monitor their patients from a distance as they ease themselves off opioids, while safely managing their pain.
Treating Those Recovering from OUD
The healthcare industry is working to reduce the number of suffering from what’s known as opioid use disorder (OUD). There are signs the country is making progress. Recent statistics show that many more people are being treated for OUD than just a few years ago, which shows us that patients are finally getting the help they need when it comes to managing their pain and recovering from addiction.
Typically, these individuals will receive medically assisted treatment (MAT) when recovering from OUD. Providers will often prescribe buprenorphine as part of the treatment process. This drug can treat pain as well as addiction to narcotic pain relievers, making it a fundamental part of the OUD treatment process.
How Telehealth Can Increase Access to MAT
However, many patients, particularly those who live in rural areas, still have trouble accessing these vital services. These areas tend to have fewer addiction recovery programs, primary care physicians, and those that specialize in treating chronic pain. The federal government is working to address these issues by expanding funding for MAT programs, increasing education among providers and patients, changing payment policies to increase coverage, as well as technical training and assistance.
Providers can use telehealth to expand their OUD treatment services. Instead of traveling long distances to the nearest treatment program, patients can access these services in the comfort of their own home. Many of these patients may be suffering from chronic pain, which can limit their mobility. Telehealth makes it easier for these patients to access addiction treatment. They no longer have to worry about traveling for long periods of time, securing transportation, or taking time off work.
Providers must comply with policies from both the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in order to prescribe buprenorphine remotely. The government is working to expand patient and provider access to telemedicine services. Qualified providers can now use this technology to prescribe buprenorphine to patients in settings other than a federally regulated opioid treatment program.
Telehealth gives providers the means to safely monitor their patients as they recover from OUD at home. They can make sure these individuals are taking buprenorphine responsibly instead of relying on opioids or heroin to treat their pain.
The Sensitive Nature of OUD
Addiction treatment can take many forms. Providers need to spend time getting to know their patients, listening to their concerns, and diagnosing their pain before treating them for OUD. Talking about these issues can be challenging and intimidating for some patients. Telehealth gives these patients the freedom to stay at home where they feel more comfortable talking about addiction, recovery, and what it feels like to live with chronic pain. This also increases the chances that they will seek out addiction care and treatment instead of turning to illegal drugs like heroin.
Patients can also use telehealth to stay in contact with their care providers during the recovery process. Many individuals lack access to recovery programs, which can make the recovery process all the more challenging. If a patient starts suffering from withdrawal, they can quickly contact a health professional instead of relying on friends and family or going it alone.
Providers are finding better ways to treat patients recovering from OUD. It’s about finding a platform that works for providers and their patients. Contact InTouch Health to learn more about the latest telehealth technology.