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Dr Marie Sartain
/ Categories: APhA News

Telehealth can increase likelihood of remaining in OUD treatment

Initiating buprenorphine for OUD via telehealth enhanced patients’ likelihood of staying in treatment longer compared with starting treatment in a nontelehealth setting, according to new research in JAMA Network Open.

The study was based on Medicaid data from 2019 to 2020 for Kentucky and Ohio. The researchers found that in Kentucky, 48% of those who started buprenorphine treatment through telehealth remained in treatment for 90 continuous days compared with 44% of those who started treatment in nontelehealth settings.

In Ohio, 32% of those who used telehealth to start buprenorphine remained in treatment for 90 continuous days compared with 28% of those who started treatment in nontelehealth settings.

The research was part of the HEALing Communities Study, the largest ever addiction prevention and treatment implementation study, and backed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative.

“This study suggests that telehealth may increase treatment access and retention, strengthening the evidence that receiving addiction care through telehealth is to be safe and beneficial, and that it should be made available to those who need it,” said Nora Volkow, MD, NIDA director, in a news release.

The study findings also indicated that receiving buprenorphine treatment through telehealth was not linked to a higher risk of nonfatal overdose. This finding suggests that patients were not adversely affected by having increased access to buprenorphine treatment through telemedicine.

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