You may have noticed telehealth options taking over a good portion of the advertising at your doctor’s office, your dentist’s office, and your psychologist’s office. You don’t need to look far to find telehealth services being advertised. As the world becomes increasingly technologically connected, telehealth is becoming a sought-after option as an easily accessible way to obtain live-saving care and increase treatment options for vulnerable populations.
Telehealth literally means “healing at a distance,” allowing for improved treatment outcomes and increased access to care for patients in any part of the country. These services provide a seamless connection between patients and healthcare networks to make treatment accessible and convenient.
With the threat of coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease, telehealth is becoming a major, important tool in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Patients struggling with addiction can receive telehealth services that include
- Care management and coordination
- Monitoring and psychoeducation
- Individual and group psychotherapy/counseling
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Peer support groups
How Does Telehealth Work?
Telehealth treatment is conducted through the use of various technological platforms that can connect to the internet. These devices can include smartphones, laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. When a patient selects a telehealth treatment option, all or most of the care can be conducted over the internet through a variety of scheduled meetings and appointments with the healthcare provider.
Although telehealth has gained enormous traction in the past year with many people clamoring for safe methods to access necessary care, telehealth is not something that has just suddenly arisen. In fact, telehealth has been used for years to serve patients living in remote or rural areas, as well as patients unable to leave their homes for health reasons or other challenges that keep them homebound.
There are many underserved populations in rural areas and among groups of individuals who don’t have steady transportation available. But with devices that many people already have access to, life-changing care is accessible to more people than ever before.
These virtual care services are also bound to the same laws as in-person healthcare. The integrity and privacy of all patients is upheld even though the mode of delivering care may look a little different. Telehealth must be provided in accordance with the law, including HIPAA-compliant services that protect the health information of patients.
Telehealth provides a secure, HIPAA-compliant form of contact between treatment providers and patients. Over the years, secure video-conferencing applications have been developed that enable essential security and safety for patients and providers. These measures ensure that patients can feel secure about meeting with providers and discuss concerns with the utmost confidence that their information will be protected and safe.
What Services Are Available Through Telehealth?
There are numerous services that are available through telehealth. From annual visits with your physician to weekly therapy sessions with a licensed counselor, there is a world of treatment available right from your device. Check with your family physician and other medical professionals you see on a regular basis to learn about what kind of telehealth options are available to you.
Here at Vertava Health, we are pleased to offer virtual care to help more people access quality treatment for mental health and substance use. Online counseling and therapy sessions with a licensed therapist are readily available alongside individual treatment plans.
The Benefits Of Telehealthcare
The benefits of telehealthcare are numerous, but there are certainly several main benefits that stick out.
Increased Accessibility: With an increase in access to personal devices with internet access, virtual care offers important opportunities for treatment to people who do not live near a provider, are unable to make a trip due to lack of reliable transportation, or who have mobility problems. Not only does this benefit patients needing to keep up with treatment, new patients who need treatment but have delayed making the trip to a physical office may feel more motivated to access this convenient form of healthcare.
Convenience: Telehealth makes managing and properly coordinating patient appointments a lot easier. For patients who require treatment for managing a chronic condition, telehealth appointments are very convenient and make it easy to keep up with proper case management. In some cases, virtual care has been observed to be a more reliable way of ensuring a patient keeps an appointment.
Safety and Comfort: For immunocompromised and other vulnerable patients, traveling to a doctor’s office can be a risk. While not everyone who visits their physician is necessarily sick, hospitals and physicians’ offices can be a place where a vulnerable patient could pick up an illness. Choosing to utilize virtual care options can ensure that patients are kept safe from any bugs that are lurking around a physical treatment site. Patients can also remain comfortable and secure in their own homes during the appointment by utilizing telehealth.
How Telehealth Improves Continuing Care Efforts
At Vertava Health, our telehealth services are available for all patients, including prospective patients, current patients, and alumni. These services support all phases of addiction treatment, from one-on-one physician/patient visits to support group meetings and aftercare.
Telehealth Maintains And Supports Recovery
Telehealth services are available for alumni who are in recovery to help them cope with disruption, stress, and anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis. These services serve as a support system just like in-person alumni meetings do, but through virtual care, patients can easily connect at their convenience without needing to upend their schedule or personal responsibilities.
Telehealth also allows off-site counselors and therapists to conduct sessions with our residential patients.
Telehealth Helps New Patients To Receive Care
Before taking the major step of attending a residential treatment program, prospective patients can meet with psychiatrists via telehealth services. Vertava Health provides telehealth first visits with clinical providers and patients in need of addiction treatment, evaluation, and assessment.
Our streamlined telehealth intake process and evaluations ensure that patients can get the help they need when they need it. Our psychiatrists are able to meet with more people at their convenience to assist in creating an individualized plan of care.
Telehealth Provides Ongoing Therapy
Both during and after treatment, patients can receive individual therapy from licensed therapists or clinical social workers using telehealth technology. Patients can also receive ongoing psychiatric care and medication monitoring with virtual meetings from treatment providers.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) And Telehealth
Because only about 10 percent of the people who need medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are receiving it, telehealth has been proposed as a potential solution. When treating opioid use disorders (OUD), MAT is often used effectively in combination with counseling in order to help manage cravings and reduce the risk of overdose in order to make it easier for a patient to focus on healing and recovery. Telehealth is a handy way to periodically monitor this treatment.
At present, people with OUD must complete at least one in-person visit that includes an “appropriate examination” before a physician can prescribe a medication like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone.
Prescriptions cannot be filled electronically because of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted in 2008.
One exception to the Ryan Haight Act, however, is a public health emergency declared by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Laws and regulatory reforms are underway to enable e-prescribing for patients who are participating in telehealth programs, including MAT for opioid use disorders.
A one-on-one telehealth visit using HIPAA-compliant and secure video conferencing could fulfill this requirement and enable patients who are in isolation or self-quarantine to receive medication-assisted treatment.
Is Telemedicine Safe And Effective For Addiction Treatment?
In addition to screening and assessment, telehealth can also include recovery chats, text messaging, voice messaging, and video support. A combination of these tech aids for therapy and patient support have been effective in serving patients over time.
Research shows that telehealth can increase access to treatment and therapy among people with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. Digital technologies can also help build therapeutic communities and bring providers together with patients.
The great convenience of telehealth means that quality treatment can reach more people than ever before. Many hallmark characteristics of traditional on-site addiction and mental health treatment programs can be replicated in a digital landscape. Group and individual counseling sessions, community bonding, lessons in coping skills, and medication management can take place with the help of modern technology.
Telehealth addiction treatment is not at all riskier than on-site treatment and can be highly effective for a patient. Perhaps the only drawback with telehealth treatment is that a patient needs to commit to showing up to digital sessions. Patients in a traditional on-site addiction program often live at the facility and are subject to the rules of the facility. With telehealth, patients need to continue attending virtual appointments and sessions of their own free will.
Overall, telehealth is safe and effective for addiction treatment. In fact, this option is especially encouraged for individuals who need help but are unable to attend on-site treatment. Through telehealth, life-changing treatment is no longer restricted to a physical facility.
Vertava Health is also pursuing additional accreditation to provide more telehealth support for people in need of substance use disorder treatment. Technology is already in place to expand telehealth services to the Vertava Health community, including alumni, current patients, and new patients.
To learn more about our telehealth services, or to connect with an admissions coordinator, contact Vertava Health today by calling (615) 208-2941.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?
Sometimes, telemedicine is used to refer specifically to clinical services while telehealth can refer to non-clinical services. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably to refer to medical care and appointments that are accessed through online appointments.
What is preventing an increased use of telehealth or telemedicine?
Some patients may be hesitant to utilize virtual care options due to concerns about the efficacy of online treatment, but the reality is that telehealth/telemedicine are great options for busy or rurally located patients.
Seeking some form of treatment is much better than leaving a mental health or substance use disorder untreated. Online forms of treatment can provide patients with the same form of treatment, information, and medication that is available to on-site patients. Vertava Health’s virtual care program is of the highest quality and offers the same great care available to on-site patients.