Friday, August 20, 2021

Telehealth Finds Favor Among Patients With Substance Use Disorders

Patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) who have used telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic are largely satisfied with the quality of care they receive, suggests a small study in the American Journal on Addictions.

Dawn E. Sugarman, Ph.D., of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and colleagues analyzed data from a 23-item online survey taken by 58 adult patients with SUDs who used telehealth through the hospital’s outpatient Alcohol, Drug, and Addiction Treatment Program during the pandemic. The survey assessed the frequency and type of services the patients received via telehealth, as well as the patients’ satisfaction with telehealth for each treatment service, preference for service delivery type (for example, telehealth, in-person, a mix of both, no preference), factors they liked and disliked about telehealth, and technical issues accessing telehealth.

The majority of patients—78%—were engaged in group therapy, 52% were receiving individual therapy, and 41% were receiving medication management services. Only 8.6% reported that they had ever received telehealth treatment services before the pandemic.

Overall, 86.2% of the patients reported that they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the quality of telehealth care they received and 82% reported that telehealth visits met their needs “equally well” or “better” than in-person visits. Furthermore, 90% of those who received individual therapy and 75% of those who received medication management via telehealth reported feeling “very satisfied” with the services they received. However, only 58% of those who received group therapy reported feeling “very satisfied” with receiving this service via telehealth, and 36% of these patients reported that they did not connect as well with other group members as they did in person.

Despite their general satisfaction with telehealth, only 36% of participants preferred individual therapy via telehealth, while 43% and 48% preferred group therapy and medication management visits via telehealth, respectively. Another 19% to 25% of patients preferred a mix of telehealth and in-person treatment depending on the type of services they received.

“[T]he majority of participants preferred care that included telehealth—either as their sole mode of treatment or as some part of their care combined with in-person treatment,” Sugarman and colleagues wrote. “When the mode of treatment delivery is not dictated by COVID-19 safety guidelines, it will be important to understand how best to offer telehealth to patients (hybrid or sole mode of treatment), and which individual treatment characteristics to consider.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Telehealth Options for Treating Patients With SUD Expand.”

(Image: iStock/gpointstudio)

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