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How Can Telemedicine Help Treat Addiction?

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Telemedicine, or telehealth, is the relatively new practice of consulting with a doctor or therapist remotely, typically through a secure internet connection. Typically, a doctor or therapist will talk to patients through video conferencing on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. This can work especially well for therapy related to addiction or a mental health issue. Whereas a doctor may need to examine a patient physically, a therapist can do most of what a therapist does remotely. Seeing the patient and hearing what she says gives the therapist most of the information she needs and vice versa. In some ways, telemedicine can offer even more insight into a patient’s circumstances than office meetings as a teleconference can give the therapist some insight into the patient’s home life.

As the opioid crisis continues to get worse, telemedicine may play an important role in the solution. The recent Support for Patients and Communities Act, for example, makes it easier for addiction doctors to prescribe medication for opioid use disorder via teleconference. Previously, patients had to go to the office of a doctor certified in addiction medicine if they wanted a prescription for Suboxone. Unfortunately, doctors certified in addiction medicine are few and far between, which made it hard for many patients to get Suboxone. Telemedicine will allow addiction doctors to see more patients over a greater area and allow more people access to this evidence-based medication.

Telemedicine is also helpful for other interventions for addiction and mental health issues. Many of the areas hardest hit by addiction are rural. There may not a treatment center, a therapist, or even a 12-step meeting anywhere close to many people who need them. This is especially true of states with mountainous geography, like West Virginia, where travel is more difficult, and for older patients who may not be able to drive. Telemedicine may be a way to bridge this enormous gap in areas that need the most help.

Telemedicine can also be used as a regular part of treatment for people with easier access to help. Patients participating in intensive outpatient treatment who travel a lot or live too far away from the treatment center can use teleconferencing to participate in therapy. It can also be useful in follow-up care after leaving treatment.

Telemedicine does have some shortcomings. It may be harder to build trust between the patient and therapist through an internet connection. Although therapy can still be productive, some people prefer to talk face-to-face. It may also not be enough for someone who needs more serious intervention. You can’t get the same level of care, for example, as you would from an inpatient treatment program. Someone who needs a medical detox, a safe environment, and a structured schedule is not likely to get adequate support through telemedicine. However, for people considering therapy or an intensive outpatient program, telemedicine might be a good option with even more flexibility.

Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance abuse, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renown clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs,
call us today:  844-843-8935