Telehealth involves using electronic information and telecommunication technologies to provide patient treatment and care. This revolutionary service provision method has increased access to medication management, crisis support, recovery support, and treatment across various primary care and behavioral health settings. And recent research indicates that telehealth is as effective as conventional treatment methods.
These advancements in health technology have redefined boundaries in counseling and behavioral services. They have significantly reduced the need for one-on-one interactions to deliver mental health services, from text messages on smartphones to real-time online therapy sessions. And the extent of these technologies is increasingly growing in all modalities of the health industry.
In this article, you’ll learn how this medical technological advancement has become a frontier in treating individuals battling an addiction to drugs and substance abuse.
The Rise Of Telehealth
Telehealth has existed for years; however, its use was fully embraced during the height of the recent global health crisis that limited the activities of the world. The lockdown reduced the number of times people visited their healthcare providers for checkups, treatment, and counseling services in fear of getting infected. If you were battling addiction during the lockdown, there is a high chance that your treatment either stopped or stalled for some time before healthcare providers resorted to providing services online.
Before the pandemic, telemedicine was often underused, and most healthcare providers did not fully understand how it functions. But as the social distance rule continued to apply, they began offering services through applications such as virtual supervision, interactive video sessions, and digital consultations. And since then, telehealth has effectively reached people battling substance abuse.
In the last three years, telehealth has become prominent as a new field in the healthcare industry. Apart from getting medical attention for general physical illness, you can also see a psychiatrist for your psychological problems. Moreover, telepsychiatry has been effective in treating disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It means it can produce the same results when handling substance use disorders.
This field will keep growing, improving, and changing in the years to come. The increasing availability of physicians, psychologists, and counselors is a significant leap in enhancing the healthcare of people with substance use disorder. And since living with an addiction is not a nine-to-five schedule but daily, hour-to-hour suffering, telehealth is a beacon of hope. Thanks to telehealth services, you can now access quality care for your loved ones battling addiction at the click of a button. If you’re battling anxiety, depression, and addiction problems, you may want to visit https://www.hcbh.org/ or similar sites for telehealth services.
Types of Telehealth
Although telehealth exists in various forms, there are three categories used to treat and rehabilitate people suffering from addiction. The significance of each type varies and can help you and your patients in various ways according to your needs. They are:
Synchronous telehealth is a local healthcare technology where healthcare providers check in with their patients and provide counseling through audio and video conferencing tools. In this case, the psychiatrist demands a ‘video visit’ that helps them diagnose, develop a treatment plan, and recommend the appropriate medication for your illness.
This method of telehealth is extensively used by everyone, from doctors in local hospitals to healthcare providers in private hospitals. It saves travel time and enables access to rehabilitation and counseling services, especially if you live in rural areas with few medical facilities.
Addiction affects relationships and requires close monitoring, especially from people close to you. And recovery entails mending broken relationships and creating new ones. Therefore, synchronous telehealth will enable your psychiatrist to hold virtual family therapy sessions to gauge your recovery progress.
In asynchronous telehealth, patients send their health information to a healthcare provider for later review. It’s also known as store-and-forward or asynchronous telemedicine. You submit your medical history, photos, and other relevant documents through the client’s portal, and the doctor will review your submission when time allows. It’s a suitable telehealth method if you need a professional opinion or advice on a particular medical condition.
As opposed to the synchronous counterpart, if you choose asynchronous telehealth, you’ll save time that you’d have used in physical video conferencing. Your doctor can then use the information you sent to set up consultations or make referrals.
3. Mobile Health
Mobile health is a type of telehealth where electronic devices such as tablets, phones, and smartwatches are used to monitor patients’ progress. These devices contain applications that can detect erratic, violent behavior in psychotic patients and notify their attendants to administer appropriate medication. And instead of confining your patient, mobile health allows you to monitor their progress while giving them the freedom to move and interact with the environment. Moreover, the devices relay data to your provider, who then uses it to determine if the treatment is working or needs adjustment.
Benefits Of Telehealth In Treating Addiction
Telehealth enables rehabilitation centers and other healthcare facilities to offer the care and support that recovering patients need to remain focused. Through telehealth, practitioners can provide interventions, therapy sessions, monitoring, and appropriate advice. Other benefits include:
The advent of telehealth has significantly cut the costs of going for treatment or attending meetings. Traveling costs can be a significant barrier to receiving medical care, especially if you live in a rural area. Even if it’s a short drive, you’ll still spend money on gas and parking, depending on your physician’s location. If you choose to use telemedicine, you don’t have to worry about taking time off work, enrolling in rehab, or paying for childcare.
Moreover, insurance companies have expanded their plans to accommodate telemedicine treatment and care services. But don’t assume; kindly confirm with your healthcare provider first.
Greater Discretion For Patients
To reduce the spread of coronavirus, access to treatment facilities was limited to critical medical conditions. It led to uncertainty, especially if you were battling substance abuse. Fortunately, telemedicine became an alternative to in-person behavioral therapy and substance abuse treatment. This alternative eventually became a preferred means of treatment for patients seeking treatment in a private, confidential, and discrete manner.
If you’ve handled drug and substance addiction patients, you understand the social stigma they undergo. Therefore, telehealth is a revolutionary option for recovering patients since it protects them from the social stigma resulting from physical hospital visits.
Instant Access To Services
Compared to conventional means of treatment, where you have to schedule a visit to your doctor, telehealth is instant for addiction counseling. All you need is a tablet, computer, laptop, or phone with a good internet connection and a platform. The platform can be skype, zoom, or a web portal recommended by your healthcare provider.
With telemedicine, you can connect with patients or providers anywhere at any time. This internet-based treatment has eliminated the delay in deciding whether to seek help. In the past, such delays made patients change their minds about seeking help and continue using drugs.
Maintains Physical Health
One of the major concerns for people battling addiction during the pandemic was maintaining their health. Embracing telehealth addiction treatment eliminates worries since you can participate in alcohol anonymous (AA) groups, therapy sessions, and narcotics anonymous (NA) meetings over the phone or online. Such forums enable you to access the help you need without the risk of contracting coronavirus as in physical meetings.
You’ve probably heard people complain that they lack time for therapy, especially those with demanding jobs, families, and other responsibilities. And at some point, you’ve waited on your counselor to finish up with the patient before you. Such issues can make you give up on your recovery journey, especially if you experience several cancellations. However, the advent of telehealth therapy sessions has eliminated such inconveniences. With an electronic device connected to the internet, you can schedule and attend counseling sessions at your convenience. You no longer have to worry about leaving your job or family to enroll in a rehabilitation facility.
Decreases Strain On Healthcare System
The high population growth rate has strained the healthcare system. And since the rate of healthcare service provision doesn’t increase with the population, the healthcare-for-all initiative has never been achieved. Using telehealth to treat substance use addiction is one way to reduce pressure on available resources. Its time-saving nature enables one healthcare provider to attend to more patients quickly.
Educating the public on the benefits of telemedicine can help the government achieve the healthcare-for-all initiative. Moreover, if healthcare providers are trained to use telehealth-associated technology effectively, patients will gain confidence in the system.
Telehealth is the new frontier in addiction treatment and recovery. It has enabled patients battling substance use addiction in rural and urban areas to access medical services from the comfort of their electronic gadgets. It has enhanced privacy, saved on cost, and reduced the stigma associated with in-person treatment. You can track your patient’s progress and report anomalies to your healthcare provider through mobile health. Therefore, if telehealth is fully implemented, it can reduce the pressure on limited healthcare resources and provide quality healthcare.
While telehealth has received accolades for its role in addiction recovery, it has some associated demerits. The COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked the use of telehealth, and its popularity lasted for a few years. Therefore, only time will tell its significance in the healthcare industry.