Integrating Telemedicine for Medication Treatment for OUD in Rural Primary Care: Beyond the COVID Pandemic
Addiction Science Made Easy for December 2020
CTN Dissemination Library
Meg Brunner, MLIS
Even before the 2019 COVID crisis, telemedicine (TM) enabled by digital health technologies was considered a key solution to the health care access problem in rural communities. However, use of TM to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) has been limited even during the recent opioid crisis in the U.S., despite high rates of opioid overdose and death rates in many rural areas.
The current “collision of the COVID and addiction epidemics” has resulted in drastically increased demand for remote care models for medication treatment for OUD (MOUD), however the development of TM-based MOUD capacity in rural primary care settings can be very challenging as providers in rural communities face limited economies of scale, heavy dependence on public payers, and low patient volume.
This brief commentary piece from two NIDA CTN researchers describes the current challenges with providing MOUD via telemedicine technologies, and offers suggestions for delivering high-quality TM-based programs using videoconferencing for medication prescription and management, delivery of behavioral therapies, and remote viewing of saliva/urine drug screens.