JAMA Article Shows Telehealth Slowed Opioid Overdoses During Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC, AUGUST 31, 2022 – The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and ATA Action issued the following statement in response to today’s publication of a study authored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This study, published online in JAMA Psychiatry (doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry. 2022.2284), examined the impact of telehealth services for substance use disorder treatment and the provision of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) among Medicare beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today, we were heartened to read the significant results from this important study, demonstrating the positive impact telehealth can have on treating individuals with substance abuse disorder,” said Kyle Zebley, senior vice president, public policy, the ATA, and executive director, ATA Action. “It is important to note that the study reported that telehealth services helped to lower the odds of overdose and increased the use of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

“We hope this sends a strong signal to policymakers that telehealth can and should be a permanent part of healthcare delivery, to effectively and safely address critical needs of patients and individuals whenever and wherever they need it most,” added Zebley. “This study is further proof that President Biden’s administration should work with Congress to make permanent the current Ryan Haight in-person waiver for the remote prescription of clinically appropriate controlled substances. The ATA and ATA Action are working with policymakers in both parties to make sure the vulnerable and underserved communities currently benefiting from this in-person waiver do not have their continuity of care interrupted once the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends.”

The study authors concluded, “Use of telehealth during the pandemic was associated with improved retention in care and reduced odds of medically treated overdose, providing support for permanent adoption. Strategies to expand provision of MOUD, increase retention in care, and address co-occurring physical and behavioral health conditions are urgently needed in the context of an escalating overdose crisis.”

About ATA Action

ATA Action recognizes that telehealth and virtual care have the potential to transform the healthcare delivery system by improving patient outcomes, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of care, addressing health disparities, and reducing costs. ATA Action is a registered 501c6 company and an affiliated trade organization of the ATA.

About the ATA

As the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth, the American Telemedicine Association is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people. The ATA represents a broad and inclusive member network of leading healthcare delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, working to advance industry adoption of telehealth, promote responsible policy, advocate for government and market normalization, and provide education and resources to help integrate virtual care into emerging value-based delivery models.

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