The Benefits of Using Telemedicine for Addiction Treatment
The increasing number of negative statistics regarding chronic diseases in the United States is preposterous. Due to the lack of medical resources, access, and care in rural and poor areas, this number is only snowballing. Not only does this pose a substantial challenge in diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases, it also adds to the trend of healthcare issues. The challenges are rooted in the deficiency of available transportation, distance, and scarcity of healthcare professionals. One of the chronic diseases that presents a significant problem across the entire board of socioeconomics is substance addiction. Fortunately, with the positive growth of access to technology, the application of telemedicine for addiction treatments offers a unique and realistic solution for overcoming some of these challenges.
How does telemedicine work?
It’s easy to say that telemedicine is a simple appointment that involves a video chat between a doctor and patient; in reality, it’s much more than that. Because telemedicine takes place over the Internet, steps have to be completed to ensure a secure connection and interaction for standardized care to ensue. Before an appointment can take place, the doctor is given a copy of the patient’s medical history and current health record. During the appointment, all exchanges of information that take place must occur according to HIPAA regulations. Future appointments as well as insurance information and payments will follow post-appointment.
How does telemedicine impact addiction treatment?
Due to telemedicine’s ability to overcome barriers such as time and distance, it is extremely beneficial in revolutionizing how healthcare professionals impact healthcare across all socioeconomic levels. Regarding general healthcare, telemedicine gives patients an opportunity to play a larger role in their wellness management and provides a feeling that their health is being observed at a more detailed level.
Drug addiction begins when someone first uses a drug, whether it’s amphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, etc. The high that is felt is addicting, which only increases the desire to use again. Over time, larger and larger doses of the drug are necessary to produce the same utopia-like feeling. Eventually, this leads to drug abuse and addiction, and help becomes vital.
Effective treatment at a rehab clinic takes place in three stages: detox, therapy, and extended care. This entire process can appear intimidating due to the cultural and social stigma of being admitted to one of these institutions. Telemedicine provides an opportunity for patients to be involved in rehab groups and one-on-one care from the comfort of their home. Patients are more involved in the process and are more likely to be involved in their care and be successful in the long term when telemedicine is used.
Specifically regarding addiction management, it is necessary for patients and doctors to stay connected past a superficial level for a longer duration of time. Face-to-face appointments are crucial, but the temptations often occur outside the office, when counselors and doctors are likely unavailable. Telemedicine provides an extension of the doctors’ support to provide continuous resources for patients.
Some of these continuous resources include privacy, schedule flexibility, and access for almost everyone. It can cause a great amount of anxiety for an individual if they worry about others knowing that they are going through rehab. A provider can have exceptional confidentiality standards in place, but there is still an inherent lack of privacy. At-home rehab sessions eliminate this stressor.
For most individuals, rehab appointments and admittance can cause extreme upheaval. The beauty of telemedicine for addiction is that people can fit in these sessions without having to put the rest of their life on hold. As stated before, with the growing access to technology, essentially everyone has the ability to access a phone or computer. This eliminates the cost of travel, taking time off of work, or scheduling child care.
Of course, the outcomes of the treatment are of utmost importance, and patients need to be put first. The VA Telehealth Efficacy Study, specific to mental health disorders, found that treatment results are good, and potentially more successful than in-person care. Receiving any kind of treatment for addiction will alter life in unexpected (and hopefully positive) ways, whether it’s via face-to-face appointments or telemedicine. An approach that abolishes certain barriers can encourage addicts and their families to seek the necessary help that will change their lives. Telemedicine has the ability to do exactly that.