Receiving opioid use disorder-related telehealth care in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic was related to decrease odds of medically handled overdose and higher retention utilizing drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, based on a examine revealed in JAMA Psychiatry.
The analysis used information from Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries ages 18 and older who had obtained a prognosis for opioid use dysfunction primarily based on ICD-10 codes. It was divided into two teams: a prepandemic cohort of 105, 240 beneficiaries and a pandemic cohort of 70, 538.
Researchers discovered 19.6% of beneficiaries within the pandemic group obtained OUD-related telehealth companies in the course of the examine interval, in contrast with solely 0.6% of sufferers within the prepandemic cohort. They had been additionally extra prone to entry behavioral health-related digital care at 41%, in contrast with 1.9% within the prepandemic group. Moreover, 12.6% of pandemic beneficiaries accessed drugs for OUD, like methadone, buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone, in contrast with 10.8% of the prepandemic beneficiaries.
Although the proportion who skilled a medically handled overdose was related in each teams, the examine discovered receiving OUD-related telehealth was related to elevated odds of constant to make use of drugs for OUD and lowered odds of overdose.
“Use of telehealth in the course of the pandemic was related to improved retention in care and lowered odds of medically handled overdose, offering assist for everlasting adoption,” the examine’s authors wrote. “Methods to develop provision of MOUD [medications for opioid use disorder], improve retention in care and deal with co-occurring bodily and behavioral well being situations are urgently wanted within the context of an escalating overdose disaster.”
WHY IT MATTERS
Although telehealth did improve entry to drugs for OUD, the researchers famous that solely a small portion of sufferers obtained drugs on 80% or extra of eligible days.
Additionally they discovered racial inequities in entry to care. Non-Hispanic African American beneficiaries had decrease odds of receiving OUD or behavioral health-related telehealth companies and decrease odds for treatment retention. The examine additionally discovered increased odds of overdose amongst sufferers who had been non-Hispanic African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Asian or Pacific Islander.
Nevertheless, researchers stated their examine demonstrates telehealth could possibly be an necessary approach to ship care to individuals battling opioid use dysfunction.
“The enlargement of telehealth companies for individuals with substance use issues in the course of the pandemic has helped to handle obstacles to accessing medical take care of dependancy all through the nation which have lengthy existed,” Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse and senior creator of the examine, stated in an announcement. “Telehealth is a precious service and, when coupled with drugs for opioid use dysfunction, could be lifesaving. This examine provides to the proof displaying that expanded entry to those companies might have a longer-term optimistic influence if continued.”
THE LARGER TREND
The opioid epidemic continues to be a significant problem for public well being. In keeping with the CDC, overdose deaths involving opioids elevated from an estimated 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in 2021.
At first of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration loosened laws to permit suppliers to prescribe managed substances, like drugs for opioid use dysfunction, with out assembly with sufferers in individual in the course of the public well being emergency.
The PHE was prolonged once more earlier this summer time. Well being and Human Companies Secretary Xavier Becerra has promised to offer suppliers 60 days’ discover earlier than it expires.
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