7 Benefits of Telehealth Services for Addiction & Alcoholism
The Covid-19 Pandemic has seemingly changed the world overnight. Companies everywhere are being forced to adapt and operate virtually. The behavioral health industry is no exception. While Telehealth or Telemedicine is not a brand new concept, it was certainly never used on the scale that we are currently using it. Collectively all of us in the behavioral health industry have had to rise to the occasion and totally shift the way we do things without missing a beat without clients. We have found there are certainly some benefits of telehealth. In this article we will be exploring the benefits and limitations of telehealth.
Benefits and Limitations of Using Telehealth to Treat Addiction & Alcoholism
1) Social Distancing
In this new normal of Covid-19 the ability to participate in treatment from the safety of your home is one of the most practical benefits of telehealth counseling. This is especially beneficial for the immunocompromised and elderly population who are some of the most at risk among us.
2) Relieve Social Anxiety
Many individuals who suffer from Addiction or Alcoholism also suffer from anxiety. In fact studies have shown that having anxiety increases the likelihood of substance abuse by up to 66%! For an individual with social anxiety, the idea of being in a group therapy session can be extremely daunting. This can be distracting and counterproductive. Meeting with a group remotely can definitely alleviate some of that anxiety and allow the individual to focus.
3) No Days Off!
Using Telehealth or Telemedicine to treat addiction and or alcoholism allows the individual to receive treatment from anywhere which removes a major treatment barrier many face. This results in better attendance rates and in turn better outcomes for those in treatment. This was a totally unexpected benefit of using telehealth services.
4) Increased Service Areas
Another one of the unanticipated benefits of telehealth therapy is that treatment providers are able to serve and increasingly large area geographically. This is extremely important in rural areas or “treatment deserts”, where treatment options can often be 50-100 miles away from an individual’s home.
5) Reduces Ancillary Treatment Costs
While many individuals can have most if not all of their addiction or alcoholism treatment covered through their health insurance, that doesn’t mean there are no costs involved. Utilizing in person treatment services can have many unexpected costs. For some there are additional childcare costs, commuting costs, lost wages due to missed work etc. Another one of the great benefits of using telehealth technology is these costs can usually be totally eliminated
6) Saves Time
While this is one of the simpler benefits, it is not to be overlooked. For many Americans it can seem as though there are not enough hours in the day. Participating in treatment via telemedicine can give clients a few hours a week back when you consider the time saved commuting to and from treatment.
For many individuals, the stigma associated with substance abuse can prevent them from seeking the help they so desperately need. Another benefit of utilizing telehealth or telemedicine is the privacy it provides. This makes treatment much more accessible for those who fear the stigma associated with addiction or alcoholism treatment.
The DC Experiment
The DC Experiment is a research projected headed by Dr. Edwin Chapman and Howard University in urban Washington, DC. Research showed that all of the doctor’s patients were receiving buprenorphine to treat their physical symptoms and help with craving management but most did not have access to the counseling that they needed. Working together the doctor and university created a new electronic health records platform which shares information between primary care physicians and behavioral health providers. A separate telehealth platform allows for patients to see both the doctor and behavioral health specialists in the same visit. The whole project is funded by the Washington, DC Department of Health. The hope is if the model works and provides superior outcomes to just buprenorphine alone, more private health insurer’s will adopt Telehealth and or Telemedicine coverage for alcoholism and addiction after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.
In summation, we at Harbor Wellness and Recovery Center have found Telemedicine to be a net positive for us and more importantly for our patients. While it is important to note we do not see Telemedicine as a replacement for in person treatment but rather a service which compliments it, we look forward to providing Telehealth counseling, therapy and services to our patients for the foreseeable future. As always if you have specific questions or need more information about Telehealth or about addiction treatment please reach out to us directly at 855-698-3554 or by clicking HERE.