January 26, 2023

Effect of telehealth on opioid use disorder treatment

Editor's Note

This study by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston, finds that telehealth is a comparable alternative to in-person care of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD).

This cohort study analyzed data on 1,768 clinicians who treated 11,801 patients with OUD via telehealth visits during COVID-19 prepandemic (March 14, 2019, to March 13, 2020) and pandemic (March 14, 2020, to March 13, 2021) periods.

Treatment by clinicians with high telehealth use was not associated with a different pattern of outpatient care or OUD-related events than treatment by clinicians with low telehealth use.

The total number of OUD visits was consistent during prepandemic and pandemic periods, suggesting that telehealth almost entirely substituted, rather than supplemented care.

Overall, telehealth was comparable to in-person care, with no evidence of harm or benefit to patients seen by clinicians with high and medium vs low telehealth use, the researchers say.

JAMA (healthcare publication) Network logo


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