HumanInsight Defining and supporting high-quality telehealth for patients with opioid use disorder: The promise and potential pitfalls of telehealth expansion
Subst Abus. 2022;43(1):1370-1373. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2022.2127140.
Many patients with opioid use disorders do not receive evidence-based treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic expanded the use of telehealth for prescribing medications for opioid use disorder (OUD). The uptake of telehealth has been variable, and this uneven expansion has created natural experiments to test assumptions and answer key questions about what improves outcomes for patients with OUD. Many current quality of care measures are not patient centered and do not focus on the practical questions that clinicians face. What criteria should be met before prescribing buprenorphine? Are physical exams necessary? Does the frequency and type of drug testing predict clinical outcomes? Are short check-in visits by phone or video better than less frequent in-person visits? Answering these questions can help define the essential components of high-quality care for patients with OUD. Defining the features of high-quality care can help create guardrails that will help protect our patients from potentially exploitive and ineffective care. Telehealth will likely end up being one additional tool to deliver care, but the scientific questions that can be answered during this period of rapid change can help answer some of the fundamental questions about providing high-quality care-and that will help all our patients, no matter how care is delivered.
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