The future of addiction treatment is telehealth now! The covid19 pandemic has expedited the need for excellent telemedicine and telehealth services around the world. The need for telemedicine and telehealth are exploding with the current state of the world and the overall health of the United States. Healthcare providers who remained in service for business during the coronavirus pandemic had no choice but to adapt to telemedicine and telehealth. Patient’s had a need to get help to deal with chronic and severe substance use disorders, even while social distancing was becoming the daily norm in America. Mental health issues, substance abuse, anxiety, and suicides have been rising during the extended quarantine period.
The need for lower cost healthcare, improved continuity of care, and care management via monitoring and adherence to treatment protocols started a slight nudge toward telehealth and telemedicine which was then propelled into the future by the changes and needs produced by the latest pandemic. People do not want to go to dentists, doctor appointments, or hospitals while the coronavirus is raging across the world and the United States. Perhaps the silent killer from China has propelled healthcare into the future overnight! Those in high risk groups such as age and comorbidities are not willing to risk their lives just to go to an appointment with a primary-care provider or dentist during the pandemic.
While the federal government, via Medicare/Medicaid, and insurance companies as a whole, try to keep patients out of hospital beds and settings by utilizing more and more outpatient settings and procedures. The growing need for more clinicians and better access to care grows by the day if not the hour! A natural solution to better help and serve a fearful and doubting population during such uncertain times is telemedicine and telehealth.
Generally, the cost of outpatient care is less expensive than hospital-based care. With the growing demand in the healthcare system and with hospitals being penalized by Medicare for extended stays and readmissions, telehealth and its components offer the opportunity to provide quality healthcare services remotely, offer tools to manage supply and demand, and provides a wonderful convenience to patients.
Telehealth is a great way to provide triage and keep patients out of doctor’s offices for issues that can be handled remotely. This allows for better access to doctors and hospitals for more serious conditions or “sicker” patients. Telehealth allows for a higher quality of managing cases of chronic care conditions, ensuring the careful monitoring of all at risk patients.
Telemedicine usually involves a patient/ doctor interaction via video, providing a face to face encounter where the doctor and patient can see each other, discuss issues, and even share images such as diagnostic test results. These appointments can be conducted on any device such as a smart phone, computer, or tablet. Greatly improved digital clarity and device computing power allows for this type of appointment to suffice in lieu of an in person visit. This service is invaluable for older and at-risk patients during these trying and uncertain times. These appointments also provide the convenience of staying at home vs driving in traffic and sitting in crowded waiting rooms
Many healthcare providers who started to use telehealth and telemedicine during the Covid19 pandemic have extended the utilization of this type of appointment with the reasoning being the overall safety of patients and staff. These type of healthcare professionals provide secure intake forms that can be filled out and submitted right from their website. A consent to treat form can also be signed and submitted by patients. A clinician can then follow up with a patient screening, assessment, and other specialized doctor appointments can be scheduled. All this can be completed via telemedicine and telehealth. The covid19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst in taking telehealth and telemedicine into the future. There have been amazing improvements and developments in addiction medicine. The most important factor is for individual patients to follow-up with their healthcare needs; however, while not exposing themselves to any unnecessary risks or harms.