Telehealth in Addiction Treatment
By David M. Kniffen Jr.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Enterhealth
Using Telehealth for Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Telehealth, or the use of telecommunications systems to connect patients with doctors, has been around longer than many people realize. There are, in fact, cases of doctors using telegraphs during the American Civil War. Additionally, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia used early twentieth century radio technology to communicate with remote settlements and other colonies on the continent.
Fast forward more than a century, and telehealth has now come into its own as a product of the digital age. We’re finding that telehealth – which includes telemedicine and teletherapy – can meet the changing needs of patients and increase accessibility in order to improve the chances for a sustained recovery. Using telecommunication systems and wireless communication methods such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to connect patients with therapists and doctors.
In fact, telehealth is breaking down the barriers that prevent people from getting treatment by bringing the treatment to them.
How does it work?
Patients can connect remotely with their own addiction treatment team for:
- Medication management
…and other treatment using a specialized, secure, and private high-definition video connection which works on most computers, tablets and smartphone devices. It’s important to note that privacy and confidentiality are key to telehealth. Because consumer-grade applications such as Skype and Facetime are not adequately secure, doctors and their patients need to utilize a platform which is HIPAA compliant and secure to ensure patient confidentiality.
Benefits of Telehealth in Treating Addictions
What are some of the benefits of telehealth in the treatment of drug or alcohol addictions?
Telehealth adds an extra level of convenience for patients who are receiving treatment, allowing them to conduct doctors’ appointments and attend therapy sessions over the internet rather than in person. Telehealth sessions can be conducted from the privacy of the patient’s own home, office or even a car.
2. Inclusive of Family Participation.
The technology can be used for regular therapy sessions, group therapy or for patients on vacation or a business trip. The technology is also used to allow family members who cannot be physically present at our inpatient facility to attend group and family therapy sessions.
3. Less Stress.
Telehealth adds flexibility and allows clinicians to accommodate patients’ busy schedules, which may at times impact compliance with ongoing addiction treatment programs. Patients do not need to interact with office staff, other waiting patients or anyone other than their physician or therapist. In sum, the technology allows patients to keep their appointments on a flexible schedule which fits in with other obligations and priorities.
4. Less Expensive.
Telehealth can also lower costs. In fact, technology reduces the overall cost for patients by eliminating the expenses and time it takes for transportation, gas and parking. In addition, patients don’t have to worry about arranging for childcare or take time off of work, both of which can act as barriers to getting care.
5. Integrated Levels of Care.
Telehealth can complement holistic treatment programs at both residential facility and outpatient centers.
It should be noted that telehealth should only be used at the discretion of the treating clinician who determines which mode and method of treatment is best for each individual patient. Further, for best practices in implementation, we recommend that must complete a drug test at a local lab within 48 hours of a request, as we do at Enterhealth. In addition, periodic in-person sessions may be necessary.
Types of Addiction Services Possible via Telehealth:
- Check-in appointments for patients and psychiatrists
- Emergency individual support
- Family therapy group sessions
- Group therapy sessions
- Individual therapy sessions
- Refill requests
Guidelines for Telehealth Requirements:
- Available at the discretion of clinical staff.
- Patient has completed addiction treatment.
- Patient is maintaining sobriety.
- Periodic in-person appointments required.
- Patient completes alcohol/drug screening within 48 hours of physician’s request.
- Validation and approval of enrollment and consent forms to use the service, which the patient can complete online through the secure telemedicine portal.
Providing Options for Patients, Changing Lives
In our treatment model, telehealth services are available to Texas residents who have completed treatment at Enterhealth or another licensed treatment facility and are maintaining their sobriety, but cannot easily attend in-person appointments with a physician or therapist at the Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence in Dallas. Some patients use these services because they live in rural areas, others frequently travel for business or need an appointment while on vacation.
In addition, some patients do not have reliable transportation or have physical limitations which make traveling difficult.
Addiction is not a 9-to-5 issue, and it’s important to provide the highest quality care to ensure that patients maintain sobriety. Enterhealth wants to be as accessible as possible to patients, and telehealth is another tool in our toolkit to help accomplish this.
At Enterhealth, we are committed to providing our patients with the most outstanding and convenient addiction treatment possible – and that treatment includes a plan for sustained recovery, regardless of whether you can make it to the office or not. Call us at 1.800.388.4601 today for more information.