Telehealth Services for Opioid Use Disorder Rose During Pandemic

A bottle of pain killers spilling out of a bottle.
Opioid use disorder,
Among Medicare beneficiaries, receipt of OUD telehealth services and provision of medications for OUD were increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HealthDay News — Among Medicare beneficiaries, receipt of opioid use disorder (OUD) telehealth services and provision of medications for OUD (MOUD) were increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Aug. 31 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Christopher M. Jones, Pharm.D., Dr.P.H., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues examined receipt of telehealth services, MOUD (methadone, buprenorphine, and extended-release naltrexone) receipt and retention and medically treated overdose before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in an exploratory longitudinal cohort study of Medicare beneficiaries aged 18 years and older with an OUD diagnosis. The pre-COVID-19 pandemic cohort included 105,240 beneficiaries, and the COVID-19 pandemic cohort included 70,538 beneficiaries.

The researchers found that a significantly larger percentage of beneficiaries in the pandemic versus the prepandemic cohort received OUD-related telehealth services (19.6 versus 0.6 percent), behavioral health-related telehealth services (41.0 versus 1.9 percent), and MOUD (12.6 versus 10.8 percent). During the study period, the percentage experiencing a medically treated overdose was similar in the prepandemic and pandemic cohorts (18.5 versus 18.4 percent). Increased odds of MOUD retention and lower odds of medically treated overdose were seen in association with receipt of OUD-related telehealth services in the pandemic cohort (adjusted odds ratios, 1.27 and 0.67, respectively).

“Strategies to expand provision of MOUD, increase retention in care, and address co-occurring physical and behavioral health conditions are urgently needed in the context of an escalating overdose crisis,” the authors write.


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One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and life science industries.

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