HumanInsight Broadband access and telemedicine adoption for opioid use disorder treatment in the United States
J Rural Health. 2022 Jul 15. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12699. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE: Buprenorphine utilization remains low in the United States. Telemedicine guidelines and flexibilities introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic provide an opportunity to increase patient access to buprenorphine. However, it is not known whether Americans without access to buprenorphine waivered provider, especially those residing in rural counties, have sufficient broadband internet access to support telemedicine.
METHODS: Administrative data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Buprenorphine Treatment Practitioner Locator Tool and the Fixed Broadband Deployment Data from the Federal Communications Commission are utilized to identify counties with low broadband penetration rate and the number of buprenorphine waivered providers with capacity to accept patients within a 30 miles radius.
FINDINGS: 23.9% of the US population does not have access to any buprenorphine waivered provider with a capacity to accept new patients within a 30 miles radius. In counties with low broadband penetration rate, 78.9% of residents does not have access to any buprenorphine waivered provider with patient capacity. In rural counties with low broadband penetration rate, 82.3% of the residents does not have access to any buprenorphine waivered provider with patient capacity within a 30 miles radius.
CONCLUSIONS: Federal policy initiatives are expected to continue the COVID-19-related telehealth flexibilities and to increase the number of providers available to prescribe buprenorphine, but for that to translate into more patients utilizing treatment via telemedicine, high-speed internet access will be essential. This is particularly salient for residents in rural counties where access to both buprenorphine providers and high-speed internet access is limited.
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