OUD Treatment Retention Improved by Telehealth-Based Initiation

telemedicine, doctor in a white coat and glasses communicates with a patient

According to a study released on Wednesday by the National Institute on Addictive Disorders (NIDA), patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) who begin buprenorphine treatment by telehealth are more likely to remain engaged with treatment longer than patients who begin treatment in a non-telehealth environment.

In JAMA Network Open, researchers analyzed Medicaid data from 2019 to 2020 in Kentucky and Ohio.

Medicaid claims and enrollment data for individuals aged 18 to 64 were reviewed by researchers from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. There were nearly 92,000 patients with a buprenorphine prescription within the dataset in 2020, and nearly 43,000 started treatment within that quarter.

In Kentucky, 48% of patients who began buprenorphine treatment by telehealth stayed in treatment for 90 continuous days, while 44% remained in treatment in a non-telehealth setting. There were 32% of telehealth patients in Ohio who maintained their treatment for 90 consecutive days, compared with 28% of non-telehealth patients.

Furthermore, receiving buprenorphine via telehealth was not associated with an increased risk of nonfatal overdoses, according to the study.

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