Telehealth for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment in Low-Barrier Clinic Settings

Opioid use disorder (OUD) has increased significantly in the United States since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study led by PISC Past Trainee Shoshana Aronowitz, PhD, featuring Executive Committee Member Zachary Meisel, MD, MPH, MA, Senior Scholar Eugenia South MD, MSPH, and Senior Scholar Margaret Lowenstein, MD, MPhil, MSHP, evaluates provider perspectives on OUD telehealth treatment. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 22 treatment providers and staff in outpatient settings, and data was analyzed using thematic content analysis. Results indicate mixed perceptions of OUD telehealth treatment. For patients who struggle to attend in-person appointments, telehealth treatment can provide an effective alternative. Many patients, however, find technology inaccessible. Moreover, it is often providers themselves who choose the optimal treatment modality -- not the patients themselves. Despite the complexities of telehealth, the team concludes that it “has the potential for to extend OUD care to patients currently underserved by in-person models” if utilized effectively.

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