Although telemedicine has improved treatment access for some patients with substance use disorders during the pandemic, it doesn’t meet all of the needs of an already vulnerable population, specialists told MedPage Today.
Regulatory agencies have loosened restrictions on treatments like buprenorphine, allowing prescriptions to be written through telehealth appointments during the public health emergency. But since the pandemic began, overdoses have started to increase again after a period of relative stability, indicating that disruptions to care due to COVID-19 are already having consequences for this population.
In various states, the number of opioid-related overdoses have also reached record highs; 39 states have reported increases, according to a briefing from the American Medical Association.
Despite the advances made with telehealth reimbursements for substance use disorder treatments, other programs for patients with addiction face budget cuts.
Moreover, when the public health emergency declaration expires, it is unclear whether the guidelines that were loosened by SAMHSA and CMS will remain. That will largely depend on whether telehealth services proved effective during the pandemic, said Allison Lin, MD, of the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan. “For lasting improvements to occur in treatment access, we need to make these changes permanent,” Lin argued in her piece in JAMA Psychiatry.
Source: Medpage Today