Health and Wellness Informatics News

A study suggests that pandemic telehealth care leads to lower opioid use. As a result, there are fewer chances of overdose.

Pandemic telehealth care related to opioid use disorder led to better outcomes. The patients who got this care had lower chances of overdose and more retention. Methadone and Buprenorphine were the medications used in this study. JAMA Psychiatry conducted this study.

There were two groups for this study. One was a pre-pandemic group. Another one was the pandemic group. 19.6% of people in the pandemic group received pandemic telehealth services. But only 0.6% of people in the pre-pandemic group benefited from telehealth services.

The pandemic group often chose to use virtual health care services. The pre-pandemic group resisted doing so. The pandemic group also used more medications than the pre-pandemic group. This reduced the chances of overdose.

Pandemic telehealth services increased medication access for many people. Now opioid overdose patients have more freedom in accessing medicines. But study authors saw something peculiar. Despite the increased access, few patients got their medications.

Racial bias exists in opioid overdose and related disorders, as per the authors of the study. Non-Hispanic African Americans have lower chances of receiving care. American Indians, Asians, or Pacific Islanders have greater chances of overdose.

Dr. Wilson Compton is the deputy director of NIDA and a senior author of this study. He said that pandemic telehealth care diluted the barriers. It helped many patients receive medication and care. He said, “Telehealth can be lifesaving.”

Opioid overdose is a curse for public health. Deaths due to opioid overdose have soared, as per CDC. For example, 70,029 people died in 2020 due to overdose. But 80,816 people died due to overdose in 2021. It is an increase of 10,787 deaths.

DEA softened some regulations around medications because of the pandemic. The permitted providers provided medicines without meeting the patients. This happened as a result of a public health emergency.