Alcohol abuse results in 3.3 million deaths each year around the world. Opioid overdoses are now one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States. In 2015 alone, 2 million people in this country were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder. The opioid epidemic is costing this country $78.5 billion annually in lost productivity, criminal justice, and healthcare costs.

One of the biggest challenges in getting substance abuse treatment to the people who need it is accessibility. Some patients live in rural areas, and others may have time or travel constraints that do not allow them to meet regularly with a physician or counselor. This is where telemedicine can help.

Telemedicine supports addiction recovery through the use of technology. Using various tools, telehealth connects providers and patients to a variety of addiction treatment services they may not otherwise receive. Here are seven use cases for accessible addiction treatment using telemedicine.

1. Computerized Screening and Assessment Tools

Patients can participate in a computerized screening to determine whether or not they have a substance use disorder and qualify for treatment services. Some of this assessment may be automated, and there may be an interview component as well.

2. Organizational Web Portal for Patients

Once a patient is in the treatment system, he or she will have access to a web portal that provides information about his or her specific care, upcoming appointments, and access to educational or therapeutic tools.

3. Mobile Apps for Patient Use

Telemedicine can include the development and use of certain mobile apps that help guide clients through treatment and provide tools for avoiding relapse.

4. Video-based Therapy

Instead of having to drive or find transportation to attend a therapeutic session, therapy could be offered as a video-based service. The patient would log in through an online portal and use a webcam or smartphone app to facilitate a live video conference with a therapist.

Person watching a video on a mobile phone.

Telemedicine can be used for initial assessments as well as for follow-up appointments with clients.

5. Secure Recovery Support Chats

One of the most successful ways to avoid relapse is to build a strong support network in recovery. One element of this could be utilizing an online chat service to bond and connect with others in recovery when a face-to-face meeting is not possible.

6. Telephone-based Treatment and Therapy

Telephone-based treatment and therapy is another way to use electronics to make addiction treatment more accessible. This can be as simple as providing appointment reminder calls or giving patients the option for telephone-based therapy and post-treatment support.

7. Virtual Worlds for Treatment

Avoiding relapse and dangerous situations is simple enough when you are in a treatment environment. Telemedicine through the use of virtual reality programs can help clients simulate conditions in the real world so that they can improve their responses and coping skills.

The Future of Addiction Treatment Using Telemedicine

Telehealth remains a new and growing field in healthcare, but it is one that both regulators and insurers are beginning to embrace for addiction treatment services. In a recent study, the two telemedicine approaches that are currently used the most are online screening and assessments followed by telephone-based therapy and support. There is a desire by treatment providers to provide more access to mobile apps for recovery as well as recovery support chats.

Whether your area currently supports telemedicine or not, there are addiction treatment choices if you have a substance use disorder. Contact The Recovery Village now to discuss your options for treatment with one of our addiction specialists. You are not alone, and a compassionate team is waiting to provide you with the services you need and deserve.

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7 Use Cases for Telemedicine in Addiction Treatment
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