The opioid crisis in America is hurting communities all around the country. Many people in need of treatment for opioid addiction live in rural areas without dedicated treatment centers. This lack of access in rural areas means the residents are not receiving treatment. So what can telemedicine to do help the opioid crisis?
On October 26, 2017, The White Housedeclared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and the administration acknowledged a need to expand treatment throughout rural areas specifically by making telemedicine more accessible. Jamey Lister from US News wrote an article on the possibilities of using telehealth technology to help reach rural areas suffering from the opioid crisis. Lister states that in 2015, people living in rural areas are four times more likely to die from an overdose than those living in the same area in 1999. With this increased OD rate, there is a need for opioid treatment programs that help patients stop abusing opioids and get on the road to long term recovery.
With a limited number of care clinics that provide such treatment programs there is a need to find alternative options to provide people access to care. Access to telehealth services has enabled many patients to have the ability to discuss medication issues etc. One concern is that with videoconferencing, controlled substances cannot be prescribed through telehealth services without having an initial in person assessment.
There are some exceptions; such as allowing a person to videoconference their care provider from an affiliated clinic with clinic personal there with them. The emergency declaration may increase flexibility with such issues. All in all there is a need to provide treatment options to these rural areas as many are some of the hardest hit communities in the country.
Without increased care options there will continue to be horrendous death rates in these communities and a continuous loss of loved ones.
Telehealth services can help in more ways than just direct substance treatment options. A major part of recovery is therapy and counseling. Lacking access to care is a detrimental factor for these communities and increased care options could be a bright light during this dark time.