When a person is dealing with addiction, it can be difficult to maintain regular contact with their therapists and support group. This is often because of work, family responsibilities, or distance. But a growing number of treatment centers are using telehealth to help keep patients connected and on track with their recovery. These services can include text support, video conferencing with counselors, and recovery support chats, among others. These tools can make a significant difference in patient engagement and may even increase the success of treatment overall.
The authors of a new study published in Psychiatric Services reviewed existing research, responses to an online survey of 100 California addiction treatment providers, and interviews with the provider community. They found that telehealth can boost engagement and help to keep recovering addicts engaged in their treatment plans. However, they also discovered that telehealth is not a substitute for in-person treatment and needs to be used as a complement.
One key issue the authors identified was that a lack of patient interest in telehealth is a barrier to its adoption in addiction treatment. In the study, participants were asked to rate their interest in various telehealth technology options including computerized screening and assessment tools, video and telephone-based therapy, text reminders for appointments, motivational messages, and recovery support chats. The results showed that the majority of people were not interested in these telehealth tools for addiction treatment.
Many of the reasons for this low interest are understandable and can be addressed. For example, the use of telehealth can be more convenient for patients who need to travel for work or are limited in their ability to commute because of rural location or child care responsibilities. It can also be more cost-effective for those with limited insurance coverage.
Another potential benefit of telehealth for addiction treatment is its ability to be easily adapted to different situations and populations. The researchers pointed out that the use of telehealth could also provide access to treatment for individuals who would otherwise not be able to participate in group sessions because of social anxiety or logistical barriers such as transportation, childcare, or financial constraints.
A final benefit of telehealth for addiction treatment is that it can allow for customization and tailoring of programs to fit the needs of individual patients. One clinical operations specialist cited how her father’s telehealth treatment was a great fit for him because it allowed his counselor to build a plan that was unique to his specific circumstances and preferences.
The findings of this study suggest that more people need to be made aware that telehealth is an option for addiction treatment and that treatment centers should explore ways to offer this type of service as part of their comprehensive care model. It is an important way to expand accessibility and help more people overcome their struggles with substance abuse. However, a medically supervised detox is essential before trying any kind of virtual addiction treatment.telehealth addiction treatment