An image of a man in a telehealth for addiction program

Telehealth for addiction is not a replacement for conventional face-to-face treatment, but it can prove a useful supplement.

According to the HRSA (Health Resources Services Administration), telehealth involves the provision of remote treatment, clinical healthcare, and education related to public health via telecommunications software.

In plain English, telehealth for addiction translates to remote treatment using Skype, Zoom, or similar video conferencing software, as well as the internet more widely and streaming media in particular.

Unlike telemedicine, telehealth refers to a much wider range of remote healthcare services. With telehealth, you have access to non-clinical services as well as traditional clinical services without leaving home.

What is Telehealth?

With telehealth, then, you’ll use digital information and a variety of communication technologies – typically smart devices or computers – to remotely access myriad healthcare services.

Sometimes called e-health or m-health, telehealth has the following broad-based goals:

  1. Improve access to healthcare for those in isolated or rural communities
  2. Provide more widespread access to medical specialists
  3. Promote self-management of healthcare
  4. Streamline communication between patient and healthcare team
  5. Enhance access to healthcare for those with mobility or transportation issues

Here are some examples of common telehealth services:

  • Patient portal
  • Virtual appointments
  • Personal health records

Patient portal

You may find that your primary healthcare provider offers an online portal for patients.

A portal acts as an alternative to email, and offers a more robust and more secure way to communicate concerning private medical matters.

Patient portals allow you to do all of the following:

  • Request refills for your prescriptions
  • Review test results
  • Consult summaries of previous consultations
  • Schedule appointments
  • Request appointment reminders
  • Communicate with healthcare professionals
  • Coordinated communication with specialists

Virtual appointments

Depending on the treatment facility, it might be possible to attend virtual sessions with your nurse or doctor.

These remote healthcare sessions take place using video conferencing software, or via web-based meetings.

Personal health records

PHR systems (electronic personal health record systems) allow you to manage and maintain information about your health using an app on any web-enabled device.

In the event of any emergency – a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, for instance – a PHR gives emergency personnel immediate access to any salient information, from medications and allergies through to contact details for your primary healthcare provider.

What is a Telehealth Visit?

While an in-person visit is generally preferable, telehealth visits can plug the gap when it’s not possible to physically visit your healthcare provider.

You may find that your primary doctor doesn’t offer this service, but you have many options to explore if you need a stopgap in the form of a telehealth visit.

You can take advantage of telehealth visits for a wide range of circumstances, including:

  • Follow-up visits
  • Coughs or colds
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Medication refills
  • UTIs
  • Substance abuse issues

All you’ll need is the following:

  • Internet access
  • Smart device or computer
  • Video accessibility
  • Speakers or headphones

Now, while we have touched on the use of telehealth for addiction, how can it be applied to opioid use disorder?

Telehealth for Opioid Addiction

Over the past two decades, an opioid epidemic has ravaged the United States.

During the past year, over 40 states reported an increase in fatal opioid-related overdoses. This coincided with the global pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures. CDC data shows that synthetic opioids acted as the primary driver for this increase in deaths by drug overdose.

Pre-pandemic, there were barriers in place concerning telehealth. You first needed to attend a face-to-face appointment, and you could only obtain enough medication for one week. Beyond this, doctors were typically poorly incentivized for providing telehealth, and consequently disinclined to offer the service at all.

Post-COVID, though, regulatory changes mean any appointments can now be conducted remotely, and enough medication prescribed to last a month.

It is also now possible to access Medicare funding for telehealth visits, further broadening access to telehealth services.

This report from the HHS Office shows that the opioid epidemic has led to increased demand for behavioral health services at a time when there is a shortage of workers in this field. Telehealth can be used to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, while also enhancing the quality of treatment, according to the same report.

Telehealth at The District

Maybe you have been drinking or using substances more due to the pressures and stressors of the past year.

Perhaps you have been looking to commit to recovery but you can’t make time in your schedule, not even for outpatient treatment.

Well, here at The District Recovery Community, we can help you with outpatient treatment programs for alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, mental health disorders, and co-occurring disorders. We can also offer these treatment programs remotely.

For more information on our evidence-based telehealth services, reach out to TDRC today at 844.287.8506.

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