While the nation reels from the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, lawmakers are trying to find ways to provide needed addiction treatment with limited funding. One of the areas that they are exploring is telemedicine. This unique leveraging of technology can help addiction treatment providers reach more at-risk populations and prescribe necessary services without the need for office visits.

What is Telemedicine?

Now that most Americans have smartphones and access to the internet, this has opened up new opportunities for delivering healthcare services. Telemedicine is the practice of providing health care through real-time video conferencing appointments with a healthcare professional. In most cases, the patient and provider first establish a face-to-face relationship and then continue follow-up treatment online.

Telemedicine is something that is increasingly being used for addiction treatment, although there are some legal roadblocks to overcome. The problem is that some at-risk populations may not be able to afford or otherwise access the required in-person appointment, which limits the current availability of telemedicine for these groups.

Two Bills Before Congress Would Allow Telemedicine for Addiction Treatment

As this nation continues to struggle with the impact of the growing opioid addiction epidemic, Congress is considering two bills that will allow healthcare providers to deliver more addiction treatment services via telemedicine. This has been a struggle in the past because current U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rules do not allow the prescription of controlled substances using telemedicine unless there is first an in-person examination.

The 2008 Ryan Haight Act prohibits physicians from prescribing a controlled substance to a patient by electronic means unless they have first examined the patient or the patient has had an examination locally by a registered healthcare provider. There are two bipartisan bills before Congress that hope to change this rule.

The 2018 Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act would permit certain community-based mental health providers and addiction treatment centers to file a registration with the DEA that designates them as clinics, allowing them to give prescriptions for controlled substances without the need for a prior in-person examination. The Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act would require that the Attorney General and Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department create interim financial rules in 30 days or less that will enable healthcare providers to apply for the ability to use telemedicine to prescribe a controlled substance without first requiring an in-person exam.

Woman speaking with a doctor via video conference on computer

Telemedicine can make addiction treatment more accessible for some at-risk populations.

The Benefits of Using Telemedicine to Treat Addiction

The hope for the new legislation is that it will allow addiction treatment providers to expand their services to more at-risk and inaccessible people who are suffering from substance use disorders. A person addicted to opioids, for example, may find many reasons to delay or decline treatment for his or her addiction. Cost of treatment and distance to a clinic may be just a few barriers. Telemedicine could be an ideal solution for many who desire drug treatment but have these other issues as conflicts.

If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with drug addiction, there are many pathways to recovery. Even as the nation continues to search for alternatives, you can find a way out today with the range of addiction treatment programs available at The Recovery Village. Our holistic drug rehab programs are customized to suit your individual needs. Contact us now to speak with one of our intake specialists about admissions and find out how you can begin a life free from the bonds of addiction.

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