Telepsychiatry may Help Extend the Scope of Medication Assisted Treatment Program

A report from researchers at West Virginia University, Morgantown, suggests that telepsychiatry may be equally effective as in-person counseling as a means of delivering medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. The findings could help to expand the availability of treatment to more patients in rural locations, according to the authors. Study author Wanhong Zheng, MD, commented "Telepsychiatry may present a promising way to deliver MAT to this population and expand access to care." Preliminary results from the pilot study suggest that outcomes were similar for patients who received telepsychiatry in concert with buprenorphine as compared to those receiving the medication in combination with face-to face sessions. The findings are published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

The study examined outcomes from 100 participants in West Virginia University’s “Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Program” (COAT), 46 of whom were treated with weekly telepsychiatry sessions and 54 with in-person sessions. The telepsychiatry group were more likely to come from rural areas, but otherwise, the two groups had similar characteristics. The team reported that patient outcomes were similar across both groups, in terms of achievement of 90 days of abstinence, relapse rates, and propensity to use other substances. The authors conclude "The hope is that this study will open further avenues for research, funding, and practical application in increasing access of psychiatric services through telemedicine, specifically in terms of substance use treatment and to populations with limited access to healthcare." Read more about the findings here. The journal abstract may be read here.

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