One of the biggest challenges in delivering treatment for chronic diseases such as addiction to low-income residents of urban and rural areas is providing affordable healthcare access. Among the obstacles that are faced by these groups are a lack of trained healthcare professionals in certain areas as well as transportation constraints for patients.
In the United States alone, the Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the shortage of doctors could be as high as 100,000 over the next decade. In response to this shortage, some providers are considering using telemedicine to deliver more accessible and affordable addiction treatment services.
What is Telemedicine for Addiction Treatment?
In its simplest form, telemedicine is the process of receiving medical care services over the internet, usually by speaking with a physician or counselor through a live video call. In the case of addiction treatment, telemedicine might include these remote encounters with healthcare providers and counselors, but it may also account for such things as remote patient monitoring and store-and-forward applications for communication. Because of privacy concerns and strict HIPAA laws, the connections between patients and providers must be secure to ensure patient confidentiality.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Telemedicine Services
Using telemedicine for addiction treatment has both benefits and a few potential drawbacks. When a person seeks help for a substance use disorder, the process generally includes the three stages of detox, therapy, and aftercare. Many patients and their families are reluctant to agree to this due to time and cost commitments as well as the perceived stigma attached to seeking help for addiction. Telemedicine reduces these obstacles and could increase participation in an addiction recovery program. Patients have more privacy, flexibility, and accessibility with telemedicine programs, increasing the chances of successful recovery from addiction.
Despite the benefits, there are still shortcomings to these programs that have prevented their widespread adoption in the US. Addiction is as much a mental and emotional disease as it is a physical one, and the lack of face-to-face treatment with telemedicine may be so impersonal as to create a barrier to recovery for some individuals.
For many, personal interaction with counselors and others suffering from similar issues is what makes the difference in breaking down the walls of denial. Data privacy and insurance coverage are other concerns with telemedicine. Currently, only 22 states have passed laws that require insurers to provide some form of reimbursement for these services.
Getting Help for a Substance Abuse Issue
At the present time, there are not many telemedicine programs up and running. Once they do become active, telehealth is not necessarily a new way to practice medicine but rather a tool to help maintain an established relationship between healthcare providers and their patients. In addiction medicine, most experts recommend that a person suffering from a substance use disorder take deliberate steps to change direction with the help of a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
At The Recovery Village, our drug rehab program is customized for each individual client, often incorporating medication-assisted detox services that progress into drug treatment programs and then aftercare. Our multidisciplinary approach to addiction treatment includes care for co-occurring disorders as well as family therapy. Contact us now to learn about admissions from one of our addiction specialists who can help you choose the options that are right for your situation.