Telemedicine, or telehealth, refers to a special form of medical provision that has as its main goal the reduction of physical consultations and treatments carried out between health professionals and patients. Accordingly, when most people think of telehealth, they imagine remote consultations carried across video links, prescriptions that are sent out without requiring a physical visit to the doctor, and various treatment plans in which a patient is guided through the process remotely and receives everything needed without having to visit a medical professional in person.
Kiya Longevity, a company making use of telehealth in order to deliver naturopathic consultations, say that the number of benefits offered by telehealth programs extend considerably beyond this. For patients suffering serious conditions, physical trips to a hospital or clinic can be onerous, or even dangerous. For those being treated for mental health conditions, the benefits of being able to reach a doctor remotely and without having to arrange a physical appointment can make an enormous difference. For similar reasons, telehealth has also proven itself particularly effective in treating those with addiction problems.
It is a sad yet undeniable fact that the United States is currently undergoing a serious epidemic of opioid addiction. There is no getting around the fact that opioid abuse has tripled since the late nineties, and it doesn’t yet show any signs of letting up. There are myriad reasons for this epidemic – and almost as many solutions – but, increasingly, the telehealth approach is being brought to bear on this serious problem.
The opioid addiction epidemic has arisen on account of both an increase in recreational opioid use and the addictive potential of many opioid containing medications prescribed to those suffering from things such as chronic pain.
On account of this issue, the prescription of opioids has always been heavily regulated but, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are now more heavily regulated than they have ever been before. Not all doctors and medical professionals have the authority to prescribe these drugs. This is because prescribing them safely is a very delicate matter which requires a certain level of expertise. This is where telehealth comes into play.
Telehealth and Prescriptions
One of the most often touted benefits of telehealth is that it makes it possible to prescribe drugs remotely, after a remote patient consultation. For those living in rural areas, access to professionals at a physical location who can prescribe opioids safely might not be available. Telehealth solves this problem, ensuring that those who are prescribed opioids have been prescribed them in such a way as to reduce the chance of dependence.
Telehealth and Medically Assisted Treatment
Nevertheless, this only shoes how telehealth is being used to stop addiction occurring in the first place. For those already suffering from opioid addiction though, what is required is something known as medically assisted treatment (MAT), a treatment plan that involves the prescription of buprenorphine to manage a weening from opioids. The only problem is that buprenorphine is itself a heavily controlled substance, and so those isolated patients suffer the very same problem.
MAT requires not only access to this drug, but also regular monitoring of the patient throughout the process of recovery. This is where telehealth can again help, putting these patients in touch with specialists who can prescribe what they need while making possible remote check-ups and consultations in order to properly manage the treatment process.
Ultimately, solving this country’s opioid woes will require a lot more than just telehealth services. But in the multi-pronged approach to solving the problem, telehealth certainly has a significant role to play.