Telehealth Policies: Upgrading To Promote Opioid Treatment Through Telehealth

Author: SK

During the pandemic, it became possible to assist people struggling with opioid addiction in rural areas and several formerly confined, homeless people. Vulnerable families, all thanks to embracing telehealth services in healthcare, as per the recent report published by PEW Charitable Trusts’, in 2021; approximately 71,000 people died because of the opioid overdose in the United States alone. Almost 1.6 million people are struggling to overcome opioid disorders. Also, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in February 2021 states that the cases of deaths have grown due to synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, cocaine, and psychostimulants in recent years. CDC has further reported approximately 81,000 deaths from overdose in 12-months. The recent interim data extracted from CDC also testified that the highest number of deaths due to overdose occurred in May 2020. 

Several attempts have been made to address the rising need for opioid overdose, including legislative efforts to integrate telehealth into healthcare. However, the interest seems to be diminishing after the pandemic. Numerous states adopted opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment support via telehealth during a pandemic, resulting in positive outcomes. Soon after the pandemic ended, private insurers annulled telehealth services, including OUD. Despite the outcomes and benefits people receive through telehealth services, rollbacks for telehealth OUD treatment are occurring at the state level. 

Research organizations issue reports encouraging legislation and Medicare agencies to upgrade their telehealth policies to deliver optimum health care services. The blog reviews a few key points of a published report on opioids by PEW Trusts’. 

Compensating For Opioid Treatment Via Telehealth

The refund from private or public insurers for opioid disorder treatment via telehealth permits improved services rendered. Telehealth services and in-person services for the Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) are the same. Where Medicaid programs and private payers compensate practitioners. According to the national survey, physicians who prescribed buprenorphine for opioid use disorder via telehealth during the pandemic faced minor difficulty prescribing buprenorphine, which is similar to what physicians in-person also faced. 

Due to this reason, several doctors favor reimbursement from Medicaid and private payers in the telehealth policies if buprenorphine is prescribed for the treatment of opioid use disorder. It also reduces the obligation of the in-person clinic visit. Also, clinicians believe that telehealth effectively replaces conventional in-person care, which entails the present and future. 

Expanding Localities for the Treatment of Opioid Disorder in Telehealth Policies

Despite telehealth services being an accessible and convenient option for people. Often people fail to receive telehealth services conveniently at home or nearby healthcare facilities due to their locality. Also, to utilize these services, patients must travel long distances if it offers certain patient care at treatment centers.

Patients face difficulties when they lack the means of transportation to reach treatment centers or if they have to meet other responsibilities. Therefore, telehealth needs to adopt policies providing opioid treatment to accessible locations for patients. Especially in rural or remote areas such as patients’ homes, which is the most preferred environment for treatment. 

Research implies that patients can safely consume buprenorphine at home, similar to the in-office setting. The idea can be successfully implemented in correctional facilities where telehealth services are still lacking. The issue can be precisely addressed, rectified, and adequately adopted. If state authorities apply telehealth settings in their infrastructure through purchased equipment and hiring staff by public and private insurers. 

telehealth policies

Adopting Audio-Only Methods in Telehealth Policies for Treatment of Opioid Disorder

Opioid use disorder treatment through telehealth has made clinicians realize its significance in the pandemic. Utilizing audio-only technology in the treatment of Opioid Disorder attracted several patients in need of care that would otherwise forgo opioid treatment in normal circumstances. Thus, telehealth policies must embrace audio-only methods for opioid treatment, especially in marginalized communities. 

It is true there still exist several obstacles to the adoption of telehealth services. Such as infrastructure, broadband access in rural or remote areas, and monitoring. Hence, it is essential to be concerned about these aspects and provide reimbursements. 

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