With the continuing growth of the opioid epidemic, health professionals and government officials are looking for new ways to combat the crisis. While prescription monitoring and other technologies are being used in many states, other forms of technology, such as telehealth, are still vastly underutilized in the fight against substance abuse.
How Telehealth Services Can Help Treat Addiction
Telehealth uses a secure internet connection to allow doctors or therapists to visit with patients who are miles and miles away. The patient may use their phone, tablet or computer to conduct a video conference with their provider, or drive to a nearby secure “endpoint” located within their physician’s office or at a medication-assisted treatment clinic.
Besides video conferencing, telehealth services can also involve long distance monitoring through apps, electronic surveys, or even lab tests. A combination of these techniques can be used to help patients continue to receive care for their addiction, helping keep them sober and prevent relapses.
Why Telehealth Should Be Used More Often in Addiction Treatment
To achieve long-term abstinence, patients need continued support from their doctors and therapists. They also need to be able to connect with others who are working to stay sober and facing similar challenges.
However, many patients cannot afford the transportation necessary to get to group therapy or follow-up appointments. They may not have a means of transportation or simply cannot take the time away from work to travel.
Patients in rural or under-served communities also have trouble accessing addiction treatment near home. They may have to drive hundreds of miles or more to reach a psychiatrist or therapist who can offer support. These areas are the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Though they may not have the health care in their communities they need, many of these areas do have fast internet connections that make telehealth possible.
Telehealth can help patients facing transportation or time obstacles get the continued help they need. Whether they schedule one-on-one appointments or participate in group therapy sessions online, they stay connected to people who care about their sobriety. They can receive access to the resources they need for long-term success.
Even lawmakers are seeing the benefits of telehealth and working to make them more affordable for facilities and providers. HR6, the Opioid Crisis Response Package passed in 2018, eliminated geographic restrictions that were once placed on telehealth services. This bill now allows telehealth to be used for substance abuse disorder treatment as well as care for any co-occurring mental health disorders for patients living anywhere, not just in rural areas. The bill also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct research on the effectiveness of telehealth programs in treating substance abuse issues and deliver a report in 5 years on the topic.
At Datapro, we can help your facility properly bill for telehealth services so you can offer them to your patients without harming your bottom line. Schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Datapro experts by calling 805-579-3537 or contacting us online.