Telehealth for Addiction Treatment

Clinically Reviewed by Sarah Hogan, MA LPC

Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 13 years of experience in the behavioral health field as well as a certified provider of Cognitive Processing Therapy for Trauma. She has extensive experience in counseling and case management with local mental health authorities, emergency homeless shelters, leading high acuity response teams, and serving first responders/veterans.

Telehealth is not a new concept for health service providers. The practice goes back as far as the 1950’s and was used as an alternative for those who needed an alternative to a face-to-face visit with their healthcare provider. Because of the global pandemic and the efforts used to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the use of telehealth services is more popular now than ever.

Telehealth service providers only continue to grow. Research shows that both patients and healthcare providers value the convenience and affordability that telehealth services provide.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is defined as the use of electronic information and telecommunication to support clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration (Health Resources & Services Administration, 2020). Telehealth services include video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, mobile health services, and other electronic communications, including smartphone applications and text messaging.

The Benefits of Virtual Care

The American Hospital Association shared these facts about the benefits of telehealth.

  1. Telehealth helps increase health care value and affordability.
  2. Virtual care technology saves patients’ time and money, reduces patient transfers, emergency department and urgent care center visits, and delivers savings to recipients.
  3. Telehealth helps address physician burnout by reducing clinicians’ drive times and allowing more time with patients.

Is Telehealth Effective in Treating Addictions?

Our friends at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Butler Center for Research report that when a smartphone app is included in a treatment plan to help reduce or abstain from alcohol use, treatment outcomes improve. For non-smartphone users, text messaging platforms that allow the phone user to both send and receive text interventions also have positive results.

Another study looked at which digital platforms were of the most interest to those looking for addiction treatment. According to the Butler Center for Research, “the technologies that generated the most interest were videoconferencing and mobile apps. The primary benefits identified for videoconferencing were improved access to services for rural patients and better communication with doctors who could prescribe Suboxone® for opioid dependence. Smartphone apps’ greatest benefit is the ability to reach individuals in treatment recovery outside the treatment setting.”

You can see the Butler Center’s entire research update here.

The Importance of Connection

Addiction is a chronic disease. If not effectively managed, the risk of relapse (or worse) is very real. When options for using telehealth are included in a treatment plan, clinicians are better able to stay connected with their clients after discharge. Per the Butler Center, “telemedicine can increase access to addiction treatment services by removing the barriers of geography and stigma.”

Disconnection and isolation are hallmarks of the disease of addiction. Maintaining those connections made during treatment is important to achieving long-term recovery. Fortunately, today, those connections can be made and kept with the push of a button.

How Plum Creek Recovery Ranch is Incorporating Telehealth Services

Our care doesn’t end when our clients return home. In order to help maintain sobriety and incorporate the recovery tools learned into their day-to-day lives, we offer an eight-week virtual aftercare program to all of our clients. This program allows our newly-discharged clients to work in a group setting with the primary therapist they had while in treatment. Because it’s a telehealth program, aftercare groups are accessed in a confidential and safe manner regardless of a participant’s location.

Reach Out

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or other drugs and are feeling disconnected, Plum Creek Recovery Ranch is here to help. Click here to contact one of our caring Admissions Counselors for a free and anonymous assessment.

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