Telehealth treatment for opioid use disorder is a proven solution that is affordable, available, and safe. It has been effectively reducing overdose deaths and increasing access to life-saving medications. It is widely supported — from the White House and Congress, to the American Society of Addiction Medicine — and valued by millions of frontline providers and patients.
Read the research and stories behind what makes telehealth even more effective than most in-person treatment options.
"Telehealth for OUD is the only proven example we know that accomplishes the Quintuple Aim of enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs, supporting the workforce, and achieving health equity."
The results of this study add to the growing research documenting the benefits of expanding the use of telehealth services for people with opioid use disorder, as well as the need to improve retention and access to medication treatment for opioid use disorder
"People with opioid use disorder who received telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to stay on their medications and less likely to overdose. The findings support continuing the expanded telehealth access that began during the pandemic."
Evidence shows that telehealth services are equivalent or superior to in-person care and result in increased OUD treatment initiation and retention
The CDC did their own study that showed that telehealth reduced overdose risk significantly
Most clinicians are also in favor of expanding telehealth treatment for OUD
Telehealth was a comparable alternative to in-person care for opioid use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that telehealth can safely be used to expand access to this care, according to researchers.
An Emergency Medicine Physician discusses the value of making telehealth a permanent part of addiction medicine
Telehealth opioid use was linked to a 33% lower overdose death risk among Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic compared with no treatment. The results emphasize the expansion of telehealth services.
In-person visit requirements could lead to unfilled prescriptions and overdose deaths
The US Dept of Health and Human services (HHS) recommended making expanded access to telehealth MOUD permanent in 2022
"The American Psychiatric Association, American Telemedicine Association, American Medical Association and dozens of other stakeholders pushed for the permanent waiver of in-person prescription requirements. Citing a 2021 study, they noted that the use of telehealth in harm-reduction primary-care programs providing buprenorphine helped increase access to care and overcome health inequities."
Biden and Congress eliminated the X-Waiver earlier this year, removing a key barrier to prescribing buprenorphine. We must keep going.
"Psychiatrist Dr. Sara Gibson has used telehealth for decades in rural Apache County, Arizona. “There are some people who have no access to care without telehealth,” she said. “That has to be added into the equation.” Gibson, who is also medical director for Little Colorado Behavioral Health Centers in Arizona, said one key question for policymakers as they look ahead is not whether telehealth is better than face-to-face. It’s “telehealth vs. no care,” she said."
The White House themselves recommended keeping and expanding PHE access to MOUD via telehealth
These restrictions create barriers between clinicians and at-risk populations, and they highlight a disconnect between policy makers and evidence-driven policy discussions.