medication shaped as prison bars

Using Addiction Telemedicine to Enhance Care

Every day, an estimated 115 people die from opioid abuse. To address the substance abuse epidemic—of opioids and other drugs–healthcare providers develop treatment plans that combine addiction control with behavioral and psychiatric care in a personalized package. Traditionally, treatment has centered around group therapy and in-office visits. Now, with the rise of telemedicine, providers can now work with patients at any time and place and can see first-hand aspects of the patient’s daily life. Addiction telemedicine allows providers to create a digital profile of the patient and offers insight into what triggers particular behaviors; in this way, the treatment plan can be customized to address those triggers and minimize relapses.

One of the most popular platform for addiction telemedicine is the smartphone. This ubiquitous tool offers real-time communication from providers offering support, from providers surveying patients’ feelings, and from patients needing instant access to help. mHealth apps create chat rooms with peer groups for support and links to resources, both online and within the community. Overall, the ability to seek help discreetly encourages patients to reach out more readily despite the fear of the stigma associated with addictions.

Telemental health also comprises a key element of addiction telemedicine; by extending care beyond the office walls, patients can easily continue working with their psychiatrists, psychologists, and behavioral health counselors from the convenience, security, and privacy of their homes.

In addition, wearable devices can monitor a patient’s vital signs for remote patient evaluation or deliver sensor-activated doses of medication; this aspect is currently under research.

Perhaps the real value in addiction telemedicine lies in its ability to reach patients in rural communities, who typically lack access to traditional addiction treatment. During recent months, Congress has even introduced several bills designed to reduce restrictions on telemedicine and compel providers to use the technology to treat substance abuse.

To learn more about addiction telemedicine, visit mHealthIntelligence here.

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