Telemedicine is the clinical use of long-distance technology in diagnosing and treating patients over the phone. It comes in very handy in cases of remote areas where providing medical attention to residents is not easy. One of the first uses of telemedicine was in psychiatric wards, where camera systems were set up so professionals could observe patient behavior.
Today, because of the advancements in video and internet technologies, the extent to which doctors can help remote patients has improved significantly.
The Importance of Telehealth Services During COVID-19
The need for remote medical services became much more pronounced after the pandemic began because social distancing became the new norm, and as things got worse, keeping medical healthcare professionals safe became a top priority. But the kind of social isolation and loneliness people have been subjected to as a result of lockdowns and quarantine has proved to be a breeding ground for substance abuse disorders.
There has been a notable increase in the need for long-distance addiction therapy during Covid-19 than has ever been seen before. Quarantine has also been a massive hindrance for people who were in recovery because any plans to stop addictive tendencies that were previously in place were interrupted.
This has taken people right out of their recovery phase and back into their addict mindset. Because self-isolation is so stressed upon during the pandemic in-person group therapy sessions, which helped a lot of individuals, have also been discontinued.
However, because healthcare professionals are starting to rely more and more on telehealth and telemedicine services, organizations like AA and NA have been pushing for more virtual meeting opportunities for patients. Even for people who are in recovery, these kinds of daily meetings or check-ins could be monumental for their success.
Telemedicine Rehabilitation Services
Telerehabilitation is the virtual delivery of rehabilitation services to patients in the comfort of their homes. Accomplished through visual and audio technology, telemedicine has proved to be quite an effective replacement for regular therapy. The fact that it can overcome any geographical, physical and cognitive barriers is a huge milestone, especially in the present circumstances.
Because technology is constantly developing and improving, doctors and patients both have more apps to not only stay in touch but also to stay on top of their progress. Therefore, integrating a telerehabilitation system in the current healthcare structure is not only cost-effective but also has a positive social impact.
Research has shown that addiction patients prefer videoconferencing and smartphone apps to stay in touch with their doctors and that these technologies provide the greatest benefits and the greatest access to services for people in rural areas. Text messages are often used with substance use disorder patients to provide individual attention and more personalized help.
Even though research on the effectiveness of telemedicine in rehabilitation is limited, there is some evidence in favor of it, for example, patients tend to have fewer drinking days as well as fewer substance abuse days when they’re in telerehabilitation programs as opposed to normal care.
Telemedicine in Addiction Treatment
According to a study in 2018, despite its massive potential in addition to its effectiveness in dealing with addiction problems, telemedicine was widely underutilized in substance abuse and rehab centers.
With telemedicine, substance abuse patients feel like they have a sense of control over their lives, which is great for their recovery because most people afflicted with such disorders begin to feel like they no longer have any control. When they are interviewed and asked about what feels useful according to them, patients are more likely to open up when they’re in a familiar and comfortable environment like their home.
With telehealth services, patients can keep their doctors updated on their day-to-day progress by simply logging onto the app or platform where they usually communicate. This is easy, efficient and patients are more likely to get immediate help in cases where they need it.
In some patients, addictions are a product of certain underlying physical or mental health conditions. Telemedicine makes it extremely easy to get treatment for different types of diseases or conditions you’re suffering from. Mental health disorders can be targeted by mental health professionals and a physician can look at any physical problems that may have aggravated the addiction.
With regular use of telemedicine in recovery and addiction treatment programs, substance abuse patients can adopt healthy behavioral patterns and start their journey of becoming sober. All in all, healthier habits, constant communication with healthcare providers and consistent encouragement will help people who have addiction problems in their recovery.
Why We Need Telemedicine-Facilitated Recovery Programs
In certain parts of America, there’s an ongoing opioid crisis that former President Trump declared a public health emergency in 2017. This allowed doctors and health professionals to prescribe addiction medication to patients via telemedicine. This was a step in the right direction because instead of having struggling substance abuse patients gather funds and travel to visit a hospital for treatment, their treatment simply came to them.
In this way, more people were reached and therefore helped as a result of telemedicine. This was particularly true for the more rural areas where getting treatment for any disease, including addiction, is much harder because of scarce resources and remote locations.
Some question how effective telemedicine can be for addiction patients but there have been studies on the subject that imply that virtual communication and therapy for addiction sufferers have just as good an effect on patients as regular in-person interactions. If anything, most patients prefer this new form of communication and treatment because now the cure comes to them instead of them going out and looking for it.
Several doctors believe that telemedicine in addiction and recovery has been life-saving, this could be owing to the immediate and personalized attention doctors can provide to at-risk patients. Or it could be because people change their behaviors gradually and become healthier individuals over time.
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